Sandy’s June 2022 Reading Roundup

Here we are, halfway through the year.

My June reading was severely impacted by my return to work. Two of the books I had scheduled to read in June had their publishing dates moved to August so I rescheduled those (26 – 2 = 24) plus I received one late ARC, which brought the total up to 25. I have only read 16 of my 25 reads for review, though I did manage to sneak in two titles from my backlist and two reads purely for pleasure. So my read for review success rate dropped from the dismal 69% in May to an even more dismal 64% for June.

I read one debut novel in June, which was Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

plus I read five books by authors who were new to me. They were

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

My Netgalley feedback rate is hanging in there at 69%, though I don’t quite know how 🤷‍♀️ Since I have been back at work I have been requesting more books that I am reading. I find it unwinds me from the stresses of the day.🤦‍♀️

The books that I didn’t get around to reading were:

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Backstory by William L. Myers

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

The Lost Children by Michael Wood (a publisher’s widget) which I will be starting tonight

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst

I read four ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ books in June. They were – in no particular order:

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Blind Justice by David Mark

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

I have 18 reads for review scheduled for July and one blog tour to participate in. Hopefully I should be able to just about achieve my goal for the month.

Have you read any of the books I bypassed in June? Let me know.

Happy reading for July!

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

EXCERPT: She was seven again, unlocking the attic door and running down the stairs that curved around and around, spiraling downward to the sound of music – Christmas music. It was faint and there was conversation. Her father arguing with someone. A door slamming. Her mother’s screaming. Marlie’s warnings insisting that she keep quiet and stay in the attic. Faster and faster Kara ran, always downward along the never-ending staircase, her bare feet stumbling on the wetness, her fingers grazing the rail that was slick. “Mama,” she called. “Daddy . . .”

But her voice was muffled over the sound of thuds and shouts and shrieks and that song, that carol echoing loudly as the grandfather clock resounded up the staircase.

Bong, bong, bong.

She lifted her hand from the rail. It was red with blood.

And her feet? They, too, were red, slipping in the blood that dripped from one step to the next.

“Mama!” she cried as the clock’s tolling and the horrid Christmas Carol echoed through her brain.

“Sleep in heavenly peace . . .”

ABOUT ‘THE GIRL WHO SURVIVED’: All her life, she’s been the girl who survived. Orphaned at age seven after a horrific killing spree at her family’s Oregon cabin, Kara McIntyre is still searching for some kind of normal. But now, twenty years later, the past has come thundering back. Her brother, Jonas, who was convicted of the murders has unexpectedly been released from prison. The press is in a frenzy again. And suddenly, Kara is receiving cryptic messages from her big sister, Marlie—who hasn’t been seen or heard from since that deadly Christmas Eve when she hid little Kara in a closet with a haunting, life-saving command: Don’t make a sound.

As people close to her start to die horrible deaths, Kara, who is slowly and surely unraveling, believes she is the killer’s ultimate target.

Kara survived once. But will she survive again? How many times can she be the girl who survived?

MY THOUGHTS: If you’re looking for a read to make your heart race, pick up a copy of The Girl Who Survived. My heart beat at an accelerated rate from beginning to end. This was a read that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, never knowing until the big reveal, just who really was behind the gruesome killings.

This is a twisty and twisted tale. There is a lot of enmity between the various factions of the extended and blended McIntyre family. Lust, jealousy and greed combine to form a maelstrom that many don’t survive. But the burning question is ‘Did Jonas do it?’

Kara is a complex character. She has been in therapy for the twenty years since the massacre. She suffers from anxiety (no surprise there!) and paranoia, always feeling as though she is being watched. She still has nightmares. She has anger and trust issues, and drinks more than is good for her to try and keep her demons at bay. She feels guilty about an off duty policeman having lost his life while saving hers, but is resistant to the efforts of his son to connect with her. And all the time in the background is Aunty Fai, the woman entrusted with her care and the administration of her parents estate, badgering her, and trying to make money from the family tragedy. No wonder Kara hides from the world!

Although this is a pulse pounding read, it does have a few faults. Just how many times do we need to have the massacre described in full? It became repetitious, and was unnecessary. The ending felt rushed and just a little OTT, BUT I loved the scene with the turntable. Maximum points for that Lisa Jackson! I think the chapter at the end with the police recapping exactly what they thought had happened and Kara and Wesley doing the same, was unnecessary and overkill. We got what really happened. It would have been much better to have cut straight to the epilogue.

But overall, I enjoyed this. And next time I want a prolonged period with an elevated heart rate, I will be picking up another Lisa Jackson thriller.

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson is due for publication 28 June 2022.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheGirlWhoSurvived #NetGalley

I: @readlisajackson @kensingtonbooks

T: @readlisajackson @KensingtonBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Before she became a nationally bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a mother struggling to keep food on the table by writing novels, hoping against hope that someone would pay her for them. Today, neck deep in murder, her books appear on The New York Times, the USA Today, and the Publishers Weekly national bestseller lists.

With over thirty bestsellers to her name, Lisa Jackson is a master of taking readers to the edge of sanity – and back – in novels that buzz with dangerous secrets and deadly passions. She continues to be fascinated by the minds and motives of both her killers and their pursuers—the personal, the professional and downright twisted. As she builds the puzzle of relationships, actions, clues, lies and personal histories that haunt her protagonists, she must also confront the fear and terror faced by her victims, and the harsh and enduring truth that, in the real world, terror and madness touch far too many lives and families. Before she became a nationally bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a mother struggling to keep food on the table by writing novels, hoping against hope that someone would pay her for them. Today, neck deep in murder, her books appear on The New York Times, the USA Today, and the Publishers Weekly national bestseller lists.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Matariki! Matariki is the New Zealand Maori New Year. Matariki has nine visible stars. Each star holds a certain significance over our wellbeing and environment, as seen from the Māori view of the world. This is the first year New Zealand has celebrated Matariki with public holiday.

I’ve had a good reading week. When I have finished two of my current reads, I will have read all five books I had scheduled for read for review for week.

Currently I am reading The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor. I’m not yet sure what to think.

I am almost half way through Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter. This is #2 in the Andrea Oliver series and so far I am enjoying this a lot more than the first.

Those were the tail end of my read for reviews. The audiobook I am currently listening to is a backtitle from 2020, Stolen Children by Michael Wood, #6 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. I have enjoyed this whole series and Stolen Children is no exception.

I have five reads for review scheduled in the coming week. They are:

The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

After nearly two hundred years of housing retardants, as they were once known, the Beechwood Institute is closing the doors on its dark history, and the complicated task of reassigning residents has begun. Ella Jules, having arrived at Beechwood at the tender age of eight, must now rely on the state to decide her future. Ella’s aging parents have requested that she be returned to her childhood home, much to the distress of Ella’s siblings, but more so to Lynetta, her beloved caretaker who has been by her side for decades. The five adult Jules children, haunted by their early memories of their sister, and each dealing with the trauma of her banishment in their own flawed way, are converging on the family home, arriving from the far corners of the country—secrets in tow—to talk some sense into their aging parents and get to the root of this inexplicable change of heart.

A Summer Love Affair by Holly Chamberlain

Sometimes you sense something, deep inside, long before it’s proven true. Thirty-year-old Petra Quirk has always felt as if a vital element of her life is missing. It’s not until she moves back to the small town of Eliot’s Corner for the summer that she learns why. Rummaging in the attic, Petra comes across a diary. The discovery prompts her mother, Elizabeth, to make a confession to her three daughters. Decades ago, she fell in love with her husband’s best friend, Chris—and Petra is Chris’s child . . .

Elizabeth ended the affair before she learned she was pregnant, and Chris has no idea he’s a father. Hugh, who Petra believed to be her dad, was a good-natured but self-centered, blustering man. He and Chris seemed to have little in common, though their friendship was genuine. Elizabeth loved Chris deeply yet refused to tear her family apart. Even since Hugh’s death, she’s resisted contacting Chris. But Petra, floundering and unsure of her path, is compelled to search out her biological father, though she knows it will complicate her relationship with her family.

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

There was a time when Lindy Morris escaped to London and walked along the Thames in the moonlight. When life was full and exciting.

Decades later, Lindy lives back with her Auntie Bell on the edge: on the edge of Donegal and on the edge of Granda Morris’s land. Granda Morris is a complicated man, a farmer who wanted sons but got two daughters: Auntie Bell and Lindy’s mother, who disappeared long ago.

Now, Lindy and Bell live the smallest of lives, in a cottage filled with unfulfilled dreams. But when the secrets they have kept for thirty years emerge, everything is rewritten. Will Lindy grasp who she is again?

And last is a publisher’s widget for The Lost Children, by Michael Wood, #9 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. As I said earlier, I really enjoy this series.

I received three new ARCs via Netgalley this week. They are:

We All Have Our Secrets by Jane Corry

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

And, The Other Girlfriend by Alex Stone

I also received two publishers widgets, making a total of five new titles for the week, all of which landed in my inbox on Friday. And there I was thinking I was going to have a 0 new additions week. 🤷‍♀️ The two widgets are:

The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland

And, A Cornish Recipe for Murder by Fiona Leitch

I hope that you’re all having a wonderful weekend. The sun is poking its head out from behind the clouds so I will take this opportunity to go for a walk while it’s not raining. I haven’t been for a walk since Wednesday so it will be good to blow the cobwebs out and I should be able to finish listening to Stolen Children. Happy reading!❤📚

The Wedding Murders by Sarah Linley

EXCERPT: Prologue

Darkness engulfs her as soon as she steps out of the clearing. She tries to get her bearings, but nothing looks familiar. She needs help. Fast.

She pulls out her phone, her hands still slippery with blood, but it’s run out of battery. Damn it. She starts to run through the woodland, praying she’s going the right way.

Branches tear at her face as roots twist around her ankles. She stumbles and nearly falls. She looks behind her but can’t see more than a meter. Her heart is pounding and tears are streaming down her face, blurring her vision.

In the night, the trees have taken on a fairytale quality, a warning to little girls not to stray from the path. Moonlight stabs through the canopy creating pools of light. An owl screeches, the sound piercing the silence like someone being tortured. The undergrowth rustles with unseen creatures.

She needs to get back to the wedding.

She pictures the guests, dancing and drinking, raising their glasses to the bride and groom, oblivious to any danger. To the killer in their midst.

ABOUT ‘THE WEDDING MURDERS’: You are invited to the wedding of the season…

It’s the stuff of fairytales. A celebrity wedding in a grand manor house in the beautiful English countryside.

But then one guest goes missing.

And another almost dies.

Someone at this wedding will do anything to stop their dark secrets from being exposed.

You might not live to tell the tale…

MY THOUGHTS: 🤷‍♀️ I really wanted to love this book, after all weddings are usually fraught affairs anyway, and a murder or two would likely improve the atmosphere. But unfortunately The Wedding Murders failed to hold my interest. It actually took me five days to read this relatively short book.

The story is told over two timelines, the 1990’s as the band struggles to become known and then becomes famous, and the current day when one of the now disbanded group members is getting married. There are also excerpts from Simon’s soon to be published exposè on life on the road. He, for one, is not content to let what happened on tour stay on tour. Personally I felt these extracts added little to the book, and were merely ‘filler’ material.

There should be plenty of suspense and intrigue, but this is sadly lacking for the most part. The writing style is flat, as are the characters. I felt like I was reading an article in one of the less lurid newspapers reporting the event. At no point did I become engaged with either the characters or the storyline. I was so disinterested that I didn’t even try to work out who the murderer could be.

However I didn’t skip parts and I never debated not finishing. This is a light, quick read with an excess of sex, drugs and what passed for rock’n’roll in the 1990s.

⭐⭐.5

#TheWeddingMurders #NetGalley

I: @linleysarah1 @onemorechapterhc

T: @linleysarah1 @OneMoreChapter_ @HarperCollinsUK

#contemporaryfiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Linley lives in Yorkshire and works as a Communications Manager for a housing charity. She spent two years backpacking around South-East Asia with her husband. Their travels inspired her debut novel, The Beach. When she is not writing, she enjoys walking in the Dales with her dad and his dog.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Wedding Murders 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

Blind Justice by David Mark (DS MCAVOY #10)

EXCERPT: Headlights, just beyond the fence. The car, back where they had left it. His companions. His friends. Safety, warmth. He lets out a ragged breath, fixing his gaze upon the big yellow eyes of the little Fiesta, illuminating the billions of raindrops that tumble from the demented sky.

Don’t stop. Keep going. You’re nearly there. Don’t say a word. Say he abandoned you. Say he did a runner. Say anything. But don’t let them know. Don’t let them know what you saw, or heard, or smelled. Don’t . . .

He doesn’t even feel the teeth of the metal trap crunch shut around his leg. Has taken two desperate steps towards sanctuary before he looks down and sees the gruesome steel contraption chewing into the bone of his shin. Tumbles down with such force that the tibia rips in two – spears of bloody whiteness skewering the tattered meat beneath his knee.

The pain, when it comes, is beyond endurance. It is as if red-hot knives and shards of glass were being pushed directly into the marrow beneath his shattered bones. He opens his mouth to scream and feels mud and earth spill onto his tongue, down his throat, flooding his gullet. Tries to turn the right way up, to focus himself upon the lights of the car; the nearness of escape.

A shadow falls across him. An outline of rippling silk. Bare feet. Exposed shins. Robe flapping and billowing around defined well-muscled flesh.

I’m sorry. So sorry . . .

ABOUT ‘BLIND JUSTICE’: The call comes in before DS Aector McAvoy has had time for breakfast. The news is bad: A body. Found in the woods out at Brantingham.

The reality is even worse.

The young man’s mutilated corpse lies tangled in the roots of a newly fallen tree, two silver Roman coins nailed through his sightless eyes. Who would torture their victim in such a brutal manner – and why?

DS McAvoy makes the victim a promise: I will find answers. You will know justice. But justice always comes at a cost, and this time it may be McAvoy’s own family who pay the price.

MY THOUGHTS: Aector is off investigating a murder committed in a different century, leaving his home and family to probe the death of an unmourned man who, it seems, was little missed. He has always involved his wife in his work – sometimes more than he ever intended to. Roisin has a keen, insightful mind and often sees things from a different perspective. He is reluctant to admit it, but he benefits from the fact that his wife has a fine criminal cognizance.

His boss, DS Trish Pharaoh, is his closest friend. She knows him and his family better than anyone. But sometimes he’d like her to respect protocol and boundaries. I love the fact that the two are friends and very protective of one another. It makes a change from most novels in this genre where these two characters would be at loggerheads all the time.

Roisin and Trish have an intensely complex relationship: admiring and loathing one another in equal measure as they thread themselves in and out of one another’s lives and steer Aector in whatever direction best suits their needs. Aector loves them both, albeit in markedly different ways.

These three are a formidable team, each ready to lay their life on the line for the others.

David Mark is passionate about his characters, even down to Aector and Roisin’s children, and the criminal elements in his stories. This shines through in his writing. Damn it! I am passionate about his characters. Particularly Aector and the enchanting Roisin and their little family, and the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Trish.

You wouldn’t think that the discovery of a body that has been in the ground for more than twenty years could possibly set off such a dark and macabre chain of events, but it does. Mark plots with the same intense passion he creates his characters.

There are some strange and scary characters in this book. Characters that seem to live in a different world to the rest of us. A world inhabited by gods and demons, sacrifice and ritual. Aector’s knowledge of the classics proves useful here.

I always clear my schedule when I start a book in this series because I can think of nothing but Aector, Roisin, Trish and whatever current case they may be working. I become fully immersed in the story, and live it with the characters as I read the words. Such is the quality of David Mark’s writing.

Although this ends gently, there is change in the air and I am on tenterhooks, waiting for the next book in this superb series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#BlindJustice #NetGalley

I: @davidmarkwriter @severnhouseimprint

T: @DavidMarkWriter @severnhouse

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

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

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Blind Justice by David Mark for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome to my weekly update post, where I share what I’m currently reading, what my reading choices are for the coming week, and what new ARCs I have received.

Earlier this week I received a paperback copy of Out of Her Depth from the author Lizzy Barber. I was so excited to receive a real book in the post that I started it immediately I opened the parcel. Thank you Lizzy for sending this all the way from England. I am loving this and eager to know what Sebastian has done, or is supposed to have done, and just why he thinks Rachel holds the key to proving his innocence.

For headstrong Rachel, it is the chance of a lifetime: a summer job in the Tuscan hills, receiving room and board in exchange for her services at the luxurious Villa Medici hotel. It’s not long before she finds herself drawn into a cosmopolitan crowd of friends for whom money is no object, and allegiances can change with the toss of a coin.

When she asks her new friend Diana to help her win the affections of the handsome and charming Sebastian, she thinks she might finally have a chance to become part of their world, but when she discovers that Diana may have intentions of her own, she begins to learn the real cost of friendship. And when Sebastian begins to focus on the sweet and innocent Valentina, Rachel discovers there may be an even higher price to pay.

The suffocating heat, the blinding wealth, the beautiful people: it soon becomes too much, and Rachel finds herself not just out of her depth, but drowning in lies . . .

I am also reading The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

And almost finished my read/listen of Fatal Witness – Detective Erika Foster #7 – by Robert Bryndza.

This coming week I have the following reads for review:

His Other Wife by Nicole Trope

She has my husband. She has my child. She has my life.

I never thought I would end up here. Alone, in a cold one-bedroom apartment, only seeing my precious daughter once a week.

Another woman is living the life that was once mine. I wish I was still married to my ex-husband, the love of my life. I dream of tucking my five-year-old child into her ballerina bed sheets every night. I miss living in a beautiful house, the perfect family home, with a winding staircase and a sprawling garden.

I’d do anything to be with my family again. To start over and prove to them that I’ve changed, that I won’t lose control like before.

But when I get my second chance, the vicious messages come. The noises at night. The feeling of being watched. It’s happening all over again. I know I’m not going mad, but no one will believe me. I don’t know if I even believe myself.

All I wanted was my life back. But now my life is under threat – and my darling little girl is in danger…

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Scarlett’s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.

Ronnie’s going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can’t be gone, Ronnie won’t believe it.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it, she has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.

Lewis can believe it too. But he can’t reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.

Five days later, Esther’s buried body is discovered.

The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor

Five years ago, Olivia Sutherland was wrongfully convicted of plotting to murder her husband.

Now she’s finally free, Olivia has three goals: repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, clear her name, and bring down her husband – the man who framed her.

Just how far is she willing to go to get what she wants? And how far will her husband go to stop her? Because his lies run deeper than Olivia could ever have imagined – and this time it’s not her freedom that’s in jeopardy, but her life… 

And Girl Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

A small town hides a big secret…

Who killed Emily Vaughn?

A girl with a secret…

Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for the prom. For an athlete, who is smart, pretty and well-liked, this night that should be the highlight of her high school career. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, that secret will be silenced forever.

An unsolved murder…

Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains a mystery. Her tight-knit group of friends closed ranks; her respected, wealthy family retreated inwards; the small town moved on from her grisly attack. But all that’s about to change.

One final chance to uncover a killer…

US Marshal Andrea Oliver arrives in Longbill Beach on her first assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But, in reality, Andrea is there to find justice for Emily. The killer is still out there – and Andrea must discover the truth before she gets silenced, too…

This week I have six new digital ARCs from Netgalley and my paperback copy of Out of Her Depth written and gifted to me by Lizzy Barber, who also very kindly signed it.❤ The new ARCs are:

So Long Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

Light Through the Vines by Fiona Valpy

The Season of Dreams by Fiona Valpy

and The Recipe for Hope, also by Fiona Valpy. These three titles form The Escape to France collection.

My final title is All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien, and was a widget sent to me by publishers Harlequin Australia. Isn’t the cover rather spectacular!

It’s been a grey sort of day after a lovely sunny start, but at least it hasn’t rained since the very early hours of the morning, and it wasn’t foggy. I think that this is the first day in over three weeks that it hasn’t rained.

I got out into the garden for a short time this morning and raked leaves for composting and got rid of all the dead tomato vines. We’re meant to have a few more days of fine weather and even some sun, so hopefully it will dry out enough for me to mow the lawns which are looking decidedly ragged. I was going to bake a banana loaf, but it’s almost time for the roast pork to go in the oven, so that will have to wait for another day.

I spent some time with Luke after school on Tuesday. He loves doing jigsaws and read me a bedtime story! I enjoyed that.

I hope that you have all had a wonderful week, and I wish you another to come. Happy reading all!

The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley

EXCERPT: Outside Study Number Seven, the figure paused for a moment, listening. Being a Friday, the eight boys on this floor would have signed out and walked to the pub in the nearby market town of Fotlesham, but it was as well to be sure. Hearing nothing, the figure turned the handle and went in.

Closing the door quietly and switching on the light, the figure was aware almost immediately of the ingrained, musty smell of unwashed socks, sweat and raging hormones which had, over the years, permeated every nook and cranny of Fleat House.

Shuddering, the smell triggering painful memories, the figure nearly stumbled on a pile of underwear thrown carelessly onto the floor. Then, reaching carefully for the two white tablets placed on the boy’s locker every night and replacing them with identical ones, the figure turned, switched off the light and left the room.

ABOUT ‘THE MURDERS AT FLEAT HOUSE’: The sudden death of a pupil in Fleat House at St Stephen’s – a small English private boarding school in deepest Norfolk – is a shocking event that the headmaster is very keen to call a tragic accident.

But the local police cannot rule out foul play and the case prompts the return of high-flying Detective Inspector Jazmine ‘Jazz’ Hunter to the force. Jazz has her own private reasons for stepping away from her police career in London but reluctantly agrees to front the investigation as a favour to her old boss.

Reunited with her loyal Sergeant, Alastair Miles, she enters the closed world of the school, and as Jazz begins to probe the circumstances surrounding Charlie Cavendish’s tragic death, events are soon to take another troubling turn.

Charlie is exposed as an arrogant bully and those around him had both motive and opportunity to switch the drugs he took daily to control his epilepsy.

As staff at the school close ranks, the disappearance of young pupil Rory Millar and the death of an elderly Classics Master provide Jazz with important leads but are destined to complicate the investigation further. As snow covers the landscape and another suspect goes missing, Jazz must also confront her own personal demons…

Then a particularly grim discovery at the school makes this the most challenging murder investigation of her career. Because Fleat House hides secrets darker than even Jazz could ever have imagined…

MY THOUGHTS: Although this isn’t Lucinda Riley’s normal genre, I rather enjoyed what was obviously meant to be the first book in a series featuring DI Jazz Hunter.

Jazz is a person who notices the human detail, tending to follow her instincts and take her time, learning the stories of those involved and exhausting every avenue of inquiry before arriving at a conclusion. These skills certainly serve her well in The Murders at Fleat House and make for an interesting story.

The start is slow, but the story picks up pace slightly as it moves along. The plot is twisty and at one point I would have loved for there to have been a family tree or list of characters, but on reflection after finishing the book, this may have been difficult to do without giving away too many connections and spoiling the mystery.

I didn’t get the sense of place that I usually get with this author’s novels, and there is an awful lot of dialogue, hence the four stars rather than five. BUT, the mystery itself is wonderful. Riley, as always, had me fully engaged trying to work out who had killed Charlie, for the suspects were numerous. He was not a nice young man!

Then there’s a missing man or two, a missing child, another death, and a historical death. Jazz’s gut tells her that all these incidents are connected but putting it all together is like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no picture and no edge pieces.

Although this is a 400+ page book, I read it overnight, totally engaged in the mystery and invested in the characters. Lucinda Riley wrote this in 2006, and it was published, largely as is, posthumously. I’m sad that we’re never going to be able to read more of Jazz Hunter and her solid, capable, dependable and always cheerful sidekick DS Alistair Miles. It just goes to show, that even all those years ago, Lucinda Riley was an established storyteller. She will be greatly missed. Thank you to her family for sharing this previously unpublished work with us.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheMurdersatFleatHouse #NetGalley

I: @lucindarileybooks #authorbuzz

T: @lucindariley @AuthorBuzzUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to AuthorBuzz via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading ….

It’s been a week of wild stormy weather here in New Zealand. It would have been an ideal reading week, except that I spent the majority of it at work and both the weather and work situations look much the same for the coming week.

I have just finished The Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan

It was a wonderful read and I m not sure yet what I’m going to follow up with, but you can see my list of choices further down the post.

I am currently reading a backtitle – Dark Water by Robert Bryndza – which I inexplicably missed reading earlier. It’s #3 in his Detective Erika Foster series which I have followed from the beginning.

I am a little over halfway through listening to The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain. It’s a lovely sweet story and I have my fingers crossed that Albert will find his lost love.

I have five books to read for review this week, and they are:

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

Riverbend, Texas, doesn’t look like the crossroads of anywhere. But for four high school besties reuniting after twenty years, it’s a place to unpack a lot of baggage.

Risa’s headed for divorce, Mary Nell’s been kicked to the curb by her leech of a boyfriend, and Haley was just blindsided by a shocking family secret. But restless army veteran Jessica Callaway, looking to plant roots, has an idea: corral her fellow former cheerleaders and renovate an abandoned church smack-dab in the middle of three dry counties into a bar. Throw in a grill and Wade Granger—a onetime nerd turned surprisingly crush-worthy investor—and their lives are on tap for a turnaround. Amen to that.

Except for one hitch: the white-clapboard dream is causing a ruckus. With a renewed bond, hard work, and the promise of romance, Jessica and her friends aren’t backing down. For Riverbend, this is going to be a homecoming—and a scandal—to remember. 

Beyond The Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean

Olivia Hamilton is married to the love of her life, Dean, a charismatic pilot who flies private jets for the rich and famous. But when he vanishes over the Bermuda Triangle, Olivia’s idyllic existence unravels. After years of waiting, Olivia must eventually let go of the fragile hope that her beloved husband might still be alive.

Melanie Brown is a particle physicist who spends late nights studying the Bermuda Triangle. But her research interests falter when her mother dies in a tragic accident. Struggling to reboot her life and career, Melanie begins a forbidden love affair with her therapist.

When a shocking discovery shows Olivia’s and Melanie’s paths are intertwined, it casts Dean’s disappearance in a new light. The two women’s strange connection threatens to unlock secrets that will change everything Olivia thought she knew about her marriage, her husband, and most importantly, herself. 

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Honorable Alice D. McKerrity is no stranger to violence. From the bench at Manhattan Supreme, she has seen the most hardened killers pass through her courtroom. But there’s something about this trial—a defendant charged with the murder of a pregnant woman—that affects her as no other case ever has. Her chaotic, stressful home life only adds to her mounting feelings of panic and fear. She’s also harboring a secret that if exposed could have far-reaching ramifications both personally and professionally. And now, unbeknownst to Alice, her daughter has begun a search for her biological father.

As the trial progresses, Alice’s life starts to unravel. Nightmares she suffered as a girl return with a vengeance. Phantom sightings torment her. Is she being paranoid? Or are the specters real? Almost at the breaking point, she begins to doubt her own sanity. Then she makes a shocking discovery that sends her on a collision course with her past and a terror-filled night in the woods in Upstate New York. Confronted with the unspeakable, she must face a decades-buried truth as she fights for her survival against a cunning adversary that forces her to question everything she ever believed about herself . . . and tests her limits as a woman, a judge, and a mother.

An Island Summer by Jenny Hale

All that Meghan Gray has left of her beloved Pappy is his cottage on the edge of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Longing to feel close to her grandfather, she returns to the golden sands of Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks for the summer, clutching the manilla envelope he gifted her tightly in her hand.

On her first night on the sun-drenched island, she meets brooding Toby Meyers, a local businessman. She might feel lost without Pappy, but looking into Toby’s sparkling blue eyes feels like coming home.

The beach house where she spent her childhood is just how she remembers: a shingled bungalow with two rocking chairs on the porch and shutters on the windows. As Meghan strolls along the sand with Toby, breathing in the salty air, she realizes she is making new memories…

When Meghan opens the envelope, she finds a black-and-white photograph of someone she doesn’t recognize. If she can find out its meaning, and why Pappy gave it to her, she’ll unlock a secret that has been hidden for decades. The truth has the power to change everything Meghan and Toby thought they knew about their lives—and it will either bring them together, or break their hearts…

And The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

All her life, she’s been the girl who survived. Orphaned at age seven after a horrific killing spree at her family’s Oregon cabin, Kara McIntyre is still searching for some kind of normal. But now, twenty years later, the past has come thundering back. Her brother, Jonas, who was convicted of the murders has unexpectedly been released from prison. The press is in a frenzy again. And suddenly, Kara is receiving cryptic messages from her big sister, Marlie—who hasn’t been seen or heard from since that deadly Christmas Eve when she hid little Kara in a closet with a haunting, life-saving command: Don’t make a sound.

As people close to her start to die horrible deaths, Kara, who is slowly and surely unraveling, believes she is the killer’s ultimate target.

Kara survived once. But will she survive again? How many times can she be the girl who survived?

Four new ARCs this week, so at least I am staying consistent. They are: The New House by Tess Stimson

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

And When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

And that’s me done for the week. I’ve decided that my next read is going to be An Island Summer by Jenny Hale. Have any of you read this yet (or any of the others I have lined up for this week), and what did you think?

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚

Lying Beside You (Cyrus Haven #3) by Michael Robotham

EXCERPT: ‘We follow the evidence,’ says Lenny. ‘We track her phone. We study the CCTV cameras. We identify the car. We investigate.’

I wish I could share her confidence, but I keep remembering the bondage marks on (view spoiler) body, the rope corset designed to subjugate and humiliate. I picture Daniela similarly bound and gagged. Waiting for his return. Terrified he will. More terrified he won’t.

ABOUT ‘LYING BESIDE YOU’: When a man is murdered and his daughter disappears, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must decide if Maya Kirk is running, hiding, or a hostage. Cyrus understands how killers think better than anyone; after all, he’s a survivor.

Evie is a troubled teenager with an incredible gift: she knows when someone is lying. She is working at a Nottingham bar when a second woman goes missing, a nurse with links to Maya Kirk. Both women have a secret they have tried to hide, but the past is never history.

Evie witnesses the second abduction, glimpsing the driver, but only two people believe her.

One is Cyrus.

The other is the killer.

MY THOUGHTS: Robotham is an extraordinary writer who has crafted a gripping crime thriller, a worthy third installment in the Cyrus Haven series. Before I go any further, you do need to read this series in order, in order to fully understand the characters, their relationships and backgrounds.

Cyrus is a wonderful character. He is astute, kind, and has the patience of a saint, especially with Evie, who is enough to try the patience of a saint. Often sullen, resentful and petulant, she makes it near impossible to like her or to form any sort of relationship with her. She has mastered the art of keeping everyone at arms length, and even further away if possible. Despite this, Evie is incredibly perceptive and possesses the uncanny ability of knowing when someone is lying, something Cyrus finds useful and something he would love to be able to do.

In Lying Beside You, Cyrus and Evie have to come to terms with a third person in their midst, with the release of Cyrus’s brother from a secure psychiatric facility, so the dynamics of their relationship are changing again.

This is an intricately plotted read, full of suspense and red herrings. I am a late comer to this author, but he is now firmly entrenched in my top ten list.

Great cover art and truly relevant.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#LyingBesideYou #NetGalley

I: @michaelrobotham @littlebrownbookgroup_uk

T: @michaelrobotham @LittleBrownUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Michael Robotham was born in Australia in November 1960 and grew up in small country towns that had more dogs than people and more flies than dogs. He escaped in 1979 and became a cadet journalist on an afternoon newspaper in Sydney.

For the next fourteen years he worked for newspapers in Australia, Europe, Africa and America. As a senior feature writer for the UK’s Mail on Sunday he was among the first people to view the letters and diaries of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra, unearthed in the Moscow State Archives in 1991. He also gained access to Stalin’s Hitler files, which had been missing for nearly fifty years until a cleaner stumbled upon a cardboard box that had been misplaced and misfiled.

In 1993 he quit journalism to become a ghostwriter, collaborating with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities to write their autobiographies.

Michael writes in what his daughters’ refer to as his ‘cabana of cruelty’ on Sydney’s northern beaches where he slaves away daily to cater to their every expensive whim. Where is the justice?

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Little Brown Book Group UK, Sphere, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Lying Beside You by Michael Robotham 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

Good Neighbours by Mary Grand

EXCERPT: Saturday 18th February 2017

I sat in darkness, my hand shaking as I held out the match and lit the black candle on the altar.

On a piece of paper, I wrote the name ‘Ruby Moore, born February 1987’ and then pinned it onto the small doll, the voodoo doll.

ABOUT ‘GOOD NEIGHBOURS’: In need of an escape from her failing marriage, Nia agrees to house-sit her aunt’s cottage on the Isle of Wight. She feels sure the cosy close in a quaint harbour town will be a safe place to hide and figure out what to do next.

But things are not all as they seem in the close, and the neighbours who welcome her with open arms, are keeping secrets. When Nia finds the body of one of her new friends lying on the beach, she feels sickeningly sure that the killer is dangerously near to home.

Who killed her friend and why did she have to die? And if Nia discovers the answers she’s looking for, is she next on their hit list? Good neighbours may become good friends, but they can also make deadly enemies…

MY THOUGHTS: I have to say that I loved the location of this novel, the Isle of Wight, and Mary does a grand job of describing the beaches, walks and scenic delights.

But, if this was meant to be a novel of psychological suspense, it failed dismally for me. It ought to have been creepy. It wasn’t. It ought to have been suspenseful. It wasn’t. It was far too wordy and overblown to generate either.

I love a slow burn mystery if it is character driven. But the characters in Good Neighbours are all rather flat and I never felt a connection with any of them. Their personalities don’t shine through, despite the author giving us quite an amount of information about them; but it wasn’t information that built them into rounded characters. The stilted dialogue didn’t help any either.

The premise of the novel is good, but the ‘witchcraft’ aspect didn’t fit well and didn’t add anything to the storyline. I did enjoy the intrigue around Elvira’s character and wish that aspect of the story had been developed more. The police investigation into Ruby’s death is laughable.

Another thing that I absolutely detest is the ‘leaders’ at the end of the characters – e.g. ‘What she’d not anticipated was that the discovery she was about to make would be pivotal to her investigation into Ruby’s death.’ I don’t want to be told what’s going to happen, I want to experience it. And we are ‘told’ an awful lot of things in this book.

This wasn’t a satisfying reading experience for me and several times I debated not finishing. I doubt that I will read this author again.

⭐⭐.3

#GoodNeighbours #NetGalley

I: @marygrandwriter @bookandtonic

T: @authormaryg @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction #murdermystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Wales. Later I taught in London and then worked with Deaf Children in Hastings. I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Good Neighbours by Mary Grand 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