Sandy’s April Roundup

A chance to see what I managed achieve and what I didn’t manage to read over April, which was a scary month to begin with.

I started off with twenty-four books to read/listen for review, but with last minute approvals this blew out to twenty nine 🤯 I managed to read/listen to and review twenty books in April, which is a record for me. I was assisted by taking part in the April extended readathon with the All About Books group on Goodreads.com My April completion rate for a paltry 69% compared with 80% last month and 75% for each of the preceding two months.

Of the books that I read, one was a debut novel – The Echo Man by Sam Holland, and four were authors that I haven’t previously read. I didn’t manage to read any books from my backlist in April, but I did read three books purely for pleasure (in addition to the reads for review), two of them belonged to series I am trying to catch up on. I had Luke for the first week of the school holidays, and although we read a lot, it was all his books 🤣🤣❤

I am relieved see that my Netgalley feedback rate is still sitting on 69%. I felt sure it would have dropped.

So, to the books I never got to read during the month and which are joining my backlist:

The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Seigal

Paris, 2015. A crowd gathers outside the Chauvet home in the affluent suburban community of Maisons-Larue, watching as the family’s American au pair is led away in handcuffs after the sudden death of her young charge. The grieving mother believes the caretaker is to blame, and the neighborhood is thrown into chaos, unsure who is at fault–the enigmatic, young foreigner or the mother herself, who has never seemed an active participant in the lives of her children.

The truth lies with six women: Geraldine, a heartbroken French teacher struggling to support her vulnerable young students; Lou, an incompetent au pair who was recently fired by the family next door; Charlotte, a chilly socialite and reluctant mother; Nathalie, an isolated French teenager desperate for her mother’s attention; Holly, a socially anxious au pair yearning to belong in her adopted country; and finally, Alena, the one accused of the crime, who has gone to great lengths to avoid emotional connection, and now finds herself caught in the turbulent power dynamics of her host family’s household.

Set during the weeks leading up to the event, The Caretakers is a poignant and suspenseful drama featuring complicated women. It’s a sensitive exploration of the weight of secrets, the pressures of country, community, and family–and miscommunications and misunderstandings that can have fatal consequences.

The Girls by Bella Osborne

Four old friends. Thrown back together after fifty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a flat and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

The Best of Me by Sharon Sala

An orphaned little girl who desperately needs a new home
A couple ready to welcome her with open arms
Friendly neighbors who are always there for each other
A Southern small town where great things happen to good people

Ruby Butterman and her husband, Peanut, cannot have children, but they’re given a second chance at a family when eight-year-old orphan Carlie is left in their care. It’s a challenge for Carlie to adapt to a new town, a new school, and a new family, and when she gets bullied at school, Ruby and Peanut discover how to step up as parents, and how to make a forever family for their beloved little girl. 

Other People’s Lives by J.E. Rowney

Let me ask you. Are you worried that someone is watching you, or are you worried that you think someone is watching you?”

Sophie Portman has lost her husband, and she thinks she may be losing her mind.

She seeks the help of psychiatrist Andrew Thacker, but as she starts to open up, the truth begins to unravel and nothing is quite as it seems.

The Patient by Jane Shemilt

She is his doctor. He will be her downfall.

The bestselling phenomenon returns…

When Rachel meets Luc, the attraction is instant.
But she is a doctor, and he is her patient.
She gives him the drugs he needs – but in doing so, risks everything.
And when a secret is exposed, they’re both in the firing line.
Not all patients are telling the truth.

The Removal Man by R.J. Parker

Rose is moving. For her and her son, Noah, this is going to be a fresh start.

She’s almost finished packing but Noah is determined to spend one last night camping out in the garden like he used to. Rose agrees as long as he wraps up warm inside their small tent.

Four hours later she’s woken by a frantic banging on the window.

It’s Noah.

There’s someone in the garden.

That’s when Rose picks up the kitchen knife. 

A Body on the Beach by Dee MacDonald

It’s Tinworthy village’s summer fete: a brass band, cream teas, gentle gossip… and a body on the beach? The party’s just getting started for super sleuth Kate Palmer!

Kate Palmer thought spending the day at Tinworthy’s annual summer party would involve sea air, sunshine and Cornish cream cake – how very wrong she was! When Kate goes for a cliff-top walk she is shocked to spot the body of Sienna Stone – Cornwall’s biggest gossip – on the sandy beach below.

Rumours swirl around the close-knit community and all eyes are on Kate. Half the village saw her arguing with Sienna at the party earlier that day. It was the usual bickering between neighbours, but when Kate finds herself in the frame can she – and her new husband Woody Forrest – solve the puzzling death and clear her name?

There’s a long list of people who might have wanted to push Sienna – her long-suffering husband Irvin, her jealous younger sister Sally and Timmy Thomson, the man who idolised her, not to mention all the villagers who felt the sharp end of her tongue. Finding out the truth isn’t going to be easy…

Just as Kate thinks she’s getting closer to an answer, an unexpected afternoon visitor shares some curious information over tea and scones that sets her on an entirely different path. And soon she starts to wonder if she might be in real danger too…

Can Kate solve the curious case before the murderer declares the party over? Or have her days of sleuthing come to an end? 

Plus the audiobook The Wednesday Morning Wild Swim by Jules Wake

Ettie is trying to figure out her future.

Dominic’s just trying to forget his past.

But with the help of some unlikely friends, young and old, a secret lake hidden in the grounds of a beautiful estate and a scruffy dog, a new community is formed – right when they all need each other the most.

And I have started listening to The Bletchley Women by Patricia Adrian today

From debutante to farmer’s daughter all roads lead to Bletchley…

In a different world, Evie Milton would have accepted her fate, married an aristocrat, and become the doyenne of one of England’s finest estates, just like her mother.

In a different world, Rose Wiley would have married her fiancé, David, established a modest homestead, and brought up a brood of babies, just like her mother.

But this isn’t a different world and these women are not their mothers. Rose dreams of a life filled with more than family and duty to her husband – a life of purpose – and Evie dreams of a life far away from her rarefied existence. Now, as they perform vital work at Bletchley Park decoding intercepted Luftwaffe messages, their role in turning the tide of war in the Allies favour shows Evie and Rose they don’t have to settle for the life once laid out before them. 

Looking at May I have twenty Netgalley ARCs to read/listen for review, so hopefully that is achievable, as long as there are no late approvals for May published books. I am going back to work one or two days a week, and my youngest son is coming home from Australia for ten days so my reading time may take a bit of a hit.

I am currently reading one of my backtitles from 2017!😇

Have you read any of the titles I didn’t get to this month. Let me know what you thought of them.

Happy reading for May!❤📚

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan (Cormac Reilly #2)

EXCERPT: He walked carefully onward, conscious that if this was a crime scene he risked contaminating evidence, but aware that he had little choice. He needed to confirm that the woman was dead. The light was so poor that he was nearly on the body before he could distinguish shape from shadow, and could make out the pool of blood, mahogany dark, spread out from a spill of long blonde hair. He took his phone from his pocket, shone the light on the scene. A woman, arms thrown back, a tyre print in cherry red painted across a white t-shirt, worn under a cardigan that had fallen open. Cormac took another step closer. The girl’s chest was crushed, her pelvis twisted. And her face. Christ. There was nothing left but an open sore of blood and flesh. A gleam of white in the darkness that could be bone or tooth. Cormac swallowed, took a final careful step closer, and pressed two fingers to her neck. No pulse. Her skin was soft and held a hint of warmth.

‘She’s dead, isn’t she?’

ABOUT ‘THE SCHOLAR’: When DS Cormac Reilly’s girlfriend Emma stumbles across the victim of a hit and run early one morning, he is first on the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. The dead girl is carrying an ID, that of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company. Darcy Therapeutics has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The investigation into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but how well does he really know her? After all, this isn’t the first time Emma’s been accused of murder…

MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t enjoy The Scholar, the second book in the Cormac Reilly series as much as the first, The Ruin, which I absolutely loved. The Scholar didn’t quite resonate the same. I don’t think that the writing is as taut or tense, nor as atmospheric, and is definitely not as suspenseful as in The Ruin.

The plotting is evenly paced, and while I thought quite early on that I had the mystery solved, I was merely scratching the surface. The aspect of The Scholar that I liked least was the big business angle. It inhumamised the story to quite a large degree, whereas I enjoy mysteries that are more personal.

I enjoyed the complexities of the alliances within the station, learning their motivations as members of the team are choosing sides: for Cormac, or against. The case also places some considerable stress on Emma and Cormac’s relationship.

Having now read all of this series that is currently available, The Scholar is my least favourite. It’s a good read, and I do recommend it, but I was disappointed that we don’t see much development in Cormac’s character.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheScholar

I: @dervlamctiernan @harpercollins

T: @DervlaMcTiernan @HarperCollins

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #irishfiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved from Ireland to Australia and turned her hand to writing. Dervla is a member of the Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers Association, and lives in Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children.

The Echo Man by Sam Holland

EXCERPT: She remembers the inside of the car. Two bodies, crumpled, broken. Two bloody necks: white bone, flesh, tendons visible. And two heads lying alongside. Casually discarded, wet hair trailing in blood, glassy eyes wide open.

‘Yes,’ she says. ‘Decapitated.’

ABOUT ‘THE ECHO MAN’: Detectives Cara Elliott and Noah Deakin are on the case of a series of seemingly unconnected murders, each different in method, but each shocking and brutal. As the body count increases, they can’t ignore the details that echo famous cases of the past—Manson, Kemper, Dahmer, and more. As Elliott and Deakin get closer to unmasking the killer, the murders are moving closer to home.

Meanwhile, Jessica Ambrose is on the run. She’s been implicated as the arsonist who killed her neglectful husband and injured her young daughter. With the help of disgraced and suspended detective Nate Griffin, Jess discovers a shocking link between her case and that of the ultimate copycat killer working on his horrifying masterpiece.

MY THOUGHTS: As much as I wanted to like The Echo Man, I didn’t. It was simply too much. The idea was great and at time did I consider abandoning this read, but . . . I have been trying to write this review for two days, since I finished reading, struggling to write what I think without giving anything away.

I had great difficulty in believing that what occurred could be orchestrated over such a short period of time. It would have been hard enough for a person who had nothing else to do other than concentrate on killing, but for someone leading a double life I think it would have been near impossible.

I felt that a lot of what is in the book was written for shock factor, something that doesn’t sit well with me.
‘Overkill’ is the word that comes to mind.

There will be a lot of people who love this book. Personally I prefer more suspense and more subtlety. The Echo Man is Sam Holland’s debut novel.

⭐⭐.5

#TheEchoMan #NetGalley

I: @samhollandbooks @crookedlanebooks

T: @samhollandbooks @crookedlanebks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #policeprocedural #serialkillerthriller

THE AUTHOR: Having always been fascinated with the dark and macabre, Sam Holland’s love of reading was forged in the library through Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. A self-confessed serial killer nerd, Holland studied psychology at university then spent the next few years working in HR, before quitting for a full-time career in writing. The Echo Man is the result.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Echo Man by Sam Holland 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 Matter of Time by Claire Askew

EXCERPT: On the screen, footage of a grounded Mountain Rescue helicopter, it’s blades rotating slowly. The ticker scrolled endlessly below it: POLICE URGE LOCAL RESIDENTS: STAY INDOORS. A thought struck her.

‘He’s just running now, right?’ she said. She could hear a spike of panic in her own voice. ‘We think he’s just running – he’s not going off to target anyone? Another gathering?’

Amy shrugged.

‘Honestly, marm,’ she said, ‘we don’t know much.’

Birch closed her eyes. This, she thought, was supposed to be a good day.

‘Only that he’s armed,’ she said, opening her eyes again, ‘and – well, something. Crazy, angry, vengeful. Maybe all three.’

‘Yep,’ Amy said, her voice grim. ‘And we have absolutely no idea where he is.’

ABOUT ‘A MATTER OF TIME’: At 8am the first shots are fired.

At 1pm, the police establish the gunman has a hostage.

By 5pm, a siege is underway.

At 9pm, DI Helen Birch walks, alone and unarmed, into an abandoned Borders farmhouse to negotiate with the killer.

One day. One woman. One chance to get everyone out alive

MY THOUGHTS: Gripping from the first page to the last.

As the story unfolds, there is a tense standoff in the Scottish Borders region where a man is holding a small child at gunpoint. And that is all you are getting. I recommend that you go into A Matter of Time with no more knowledge than that. There is a wonderful background story that is centred around the catastrophic Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001, which certainly made me pause in thought. We see these things from afar, and we think, ‘Oh, how terrible!’, but in reality, we have no idea of the extent of the damage, nor to whom the damage is being done.

I loved Helen’s character. She’s not all gung-ho and ride in rough shod. She’s kind and thoughtful, and a little insecure when it comes to her own abilities. She has good instincts, but sometimes her temper gets the better of her. She believes herself to be operating well out of her depth with this case. But the hostage taker will not speak with anyone else. He has his reasons.

I had very ambivalent feelings about Gerry, the hostage taker. I felt a huge sympathy for him over what had happened in his past, and a great anger at the health and justice systems which failed him so badly. He is a man who has slipped through the cracks and the result is devastating. But, having said that, he has to be responsible for his actions.

The author creates an ongoing air of tension and suspense. I found myself holding my breath, my nails digging into my palms in several places.

I’m glad there are only three books in the series before this. It’s doable to read them before #5 is published. And I will be taking a close look at this author’s other work.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#AMatterofTime #NetGalley

I: @one.night.stanzas @hodderbooks

T: @OneNightStanzas @HodderBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mentalhealth #policeprocedural #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the current Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Claire Askew was born in 1986 and grew up in the Scottish Borders. She has lived in Edinburgh since 2004. She runs the One Night Stanza blog, and collects old typewriters (she currently has around 30).

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Matter of Time by Claire Askew 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 . . .

After all wet, cold and windy weather during the week, it’s a relief to have nice warm sunny weather over the weekend, although I’m noticing it is taking longer in mornings for the heat to kick in and we’re lighting the fire in the evenings. Some of trees are starting colour up, so winter is definitely on the way.

I’m sitting watching supercars being streamed live out of Tasmania as I write this. The only good thing about winter? – the car racing: F1, Supercars, Indy and Nascar.

I’m 3/4 of the way through The Wych Elm by Tana French. I love her writing style. I know this book hasn’t received rave reviews, but I am enjoying it.

I am listening to Mirrorland by Carole Johnson and it has me intrigued.

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

This week I have four read for review due, including Mirrorland. The other three are: Bride For a Day by Carolyn Brown, which I will start tonight.

Cassie O’Malley is a woman on the run when she when gets tangled up with a suspicious local sheriff and, on the spur of the moment, turns to a handsome stranger to get herself out of a tight spot.

Ted Wellman didn’t go to town to get hitched but that sweet girl with her big green eyes looked desperate. Suddenly he finds himself married to a stranger. No problem, his uncle’s a lawyer and everybody knows he’s in no emotional condition to settle down, not since the death of his brother put him on emotional lock down.

Much to his surprise, instead of helping get out of it, Ted’s crazy family seemed determined to keep him and Cassie together. What could they be thinking? That there is a chance of finally thawing Ted’s frozen heart? 

Sister Stardust by Jane Green

From afar Talitha’s life seemed perfect. In her twenties, and already a famous model and actress, she moved from London to a palace in Marrakesh, with her husband Paul Getty, the famous oil heir. There she presided over a swirling ex-pat scene filled with music, art, free love and a counterculture taking root across the world.
 
When Claire arrives in London from her small town, she never expects to cross paths with a woman as magnetic as Talitha Getty. Yearning for the adventure and independence, she’s swept off to Marrakesh, where the two become kindred spirits. But beneath Talitha’s glamourous facade lurks a darkness few can understand. As their friendship blossoms and the two grow closer, the realities of Talitha’s precarious existence set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire’s life forever.
 

And The Library by Bella Osborne

Two different generations. Two unusual people. Thrown together to save their local library.
Tom is a teenager and blends into the background of life. After a row with his dad, and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library. Tom unwittingly ends up with a bagful of romance novels and comes under the suspicion of Maggie.

Maggie is a pensioner and has been happily alone for ten years, at least that’s what she tells herself. When Tom comes to her rescue a friendship develops that could change her life. As Maggie helps Tom to stand up for himself, Tom helps Maggie realise the mistakes of her past don’t have to define her future.

They each set out to prove that the library isn’t just about books – it’s the heart of their community.

Together they discover some things are worth fighting for.

and, oh dear, eight new ARCs dropped into my inbox during the week. Absolutely not my fault! I’m blaming Carla and Susan 🤣🤣 They are:

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal, a new author to me.

A Body on the Beach (A Kate Palmer mystery #5) by Dee MacDonald. This is an excellent series that I am following.

The Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

Death in a Blackout by Jessica Ellicott, another new author to me.

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara, an author I enjoy.

Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothschild, yet another new author.

And one audiobook, 214 Palmer Street by Karen McQuestion, yes, another new author to me.

while there’s a break in the racing I will go get the clothes off the line and close all the doors and windows. The heat has gone from the sun, and the cat is sitting expectantly in front of the fire.

Have a wonderful week.

The Rùin (Cormac Reilly #1) by Dervla McTiernan

This was a ‘purely for pleasure’ read, and what a pleasure it was!

EXCERPT: ‘You know what, detective? I think you’re full of shit.’

She started to move away. He needed to hold her, needed her to trust him.

‘I was there, that night,’he said.

She turned.

‘The night Hilaria Blake died. I was wet behind the ears, first week on the job. They weren’t expecting a body, there was some sort of mix-up. So they sent me.’

She was holding on to the back of the chair, her eyes fixed on his.

‘I found Maude, found Jack, in a house with no electricity, damp everywhere, the place basically rotting around them. Their mother was dead. I brought them to the hospital. I saw what had been done to Jack. I never forgot him, Aisling.’ And that, at least was true.’ I cared about Jack. I care about him now. If there’s something suspicious about his death, I’ll find out. But I need you to talk to me. If you hear something, know something, come and find me. I won’t let you down.’

Her eyes were still on his, weighing up his words, sifting them for truth. She gave him a single reluctant nod before walking away.

ABOUT ‘THE RÚIN’: It’s been twenty years since Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her crumbling Georgian home. But he’s never forgotten the two children she left behind…

When Aisling Conroy’s boyfriend Jack is found in the freezing black waters of the river Corrib, the police tell her it was suicide. A surgical resident, she throws herself into study and work, trying to forget – until Jack’s sister Maude shows up. Maude suspects foul play, and she is determined to prove it.

DI Cormac Reilly is the detective assigned with the re-investigation of an ‘accidental’ overdose twenty years ago – of Jack and Maude’s drug- and alcohol-addled mother. Cormac is under increasing pressure to charge Maude for murder when his colleague Danny uncovers a piece of evidence that will change everything…

This unsettling crime debut draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can’t – or won’t.

MY THOUGHTS: I picked Dervla McTiernan’s The Rúin for my Saint Patrick’s Day read, but I simply romped through it, devouring it in a couple of days, rather than the week I had planned on, (sorry to the other authors whose work I pushed aside in order to do this).

I’m a sucker for an Irish setting, and McTiernan certainly has made hers atmospheric. The story begins twenty years earlier with the discovery of two malnourished children and their dead mother in a derelict building. Fast forward twenty years and one of those children is dead and the other hasn’t been seen since she was rescued. Cormac Reilly was the constable who initially made the discovery, and now he is being asked to take another look at the case. And he seems to be the only one who believes there to be something suspicious in this latest death, a supposed suicide.

He also thinks that there’s something wrong in the Mill Street Garda Station; there’s an air of secrecy, of exclusion, and there’s a definite tension. What are they hiding? And just how far down the chain of command has the rot spread?

The Rúin just oozes tension. It is full of corruption, cover-ups and conspiracy. But never does the author lose sight of the human touch. Despite everything else that is going on, Jack’s death and the impact it has on his loved ones is very much to the fore.

I loved every word of this book, McTiernan’s first. I have read others by her, and have another lined up to read, but although The Rúin is her debut, it is also her piece de resistance. The full five glorious stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I: @dervlamctiernan @harpercollins

T: @DervlaMcTiernan @HarperCollins

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #irishfiction #mystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved from Ireland to Australia and turned her hand to writing. Dervla is a member of the Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers Association, and lives in Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children.

Still Life by Val McDermid

Another title crossed off my backlist!

EXCERPT: ‘Good morning, DCI Pirie. This is Sergeant Pollock from Barrack Street in Perth. We’ve got a walk-in this morning that I think is more up your street than mine. Any chance you could come up and help us reach a decision?

Karen felt a familiar prickle of interest and turned away from Hamish. ‘Could you give me a wee bit more to go on?’

‘Well, it’s like this.’ He spoke slowly, keen to make sure he got his point across. ‘A member of the public came in and made a report at the bar. Her sister died in a RTA a few weeks ago and she’s just getting round to sorting out the deceased’s house. There was a camper van in the garage that the woman says definitely didn’t belong to her sister. She took a look inside and there’s skeletonised human remains in the back of the van. Now, the fact that they’re skeletonised says cold case to me and my boss. So we thought we’d cut to the chase and get you involved from the start.’

ABOUT ‘STILL LIFE’: When a lobster fisherman discovers a dead body in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, Karen is called into investigate. She quickly discovers that the case will require untangling a complicated web—including a historic disappearance, art forgery, and secret identities—that seems to orbit around a painting copyist who can mimic anyone from Holbein to Hockney. Meanwhile, a traffic crash leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a suburban garage. Needless to say, Karen has her plate full. Meanwhile, the man responsible for the death of the love of her life is being released from prison, reopening old wounds just as she was getting back on her feet.

MY THOUGHTS: Val McDermid certainly knows how to grab my attention and hold it. She knows how to strike that fine balance between the characters personal and professional lives, providing just the right amount of each. She gives technical information where it’s warranted, but never overwhelms. And . . . she keeps us updated on the office gossip.

McDermid knows how to tell a story, how to take all the different threads and weave them into one glorious picture that never could be imagined from the outset.

I enjoyed the introduction of a new character, DS Daisy Mortimer, seconded to Pirie’s team. She is bright and clever, a great foil for ‘The Mint’, DC Jason Murray who, while not the brightest bulb in the pack, is starting to gain confidence and come into his own.

This investigation takes place in the last weeks of February 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic kicks off, and ends on the eve of lockdown. It’s mentioned, but doesn’t play a large part in the story.

Still Life is classic McDermid with several threads to the plot which is well paced and keeps throwing up surprises. The central characters continue to develop individually and as a team, the only exception being ‘the dog biscuit’, the thorn in Pirie’s side and her boss.

I hope that this is not going to be the end of the DC Pirie series. I have developed a strong admiration for Karen’s character, though she still has a few life lessons to learn, and hope that the introduction of Daisy bodes well for more to come in this series.

A cracking great read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#StillLife #NetGalley

I: @valmcdermid @groveatlantic

T: @valmcdermid @GroveAtlantic

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #murdermystery #mystery #policeprocedural #scottishnoir #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Val McDermid is a popular Scottish author who was born on June 04, 1955 in Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom. She is particularly famous for writing all her novels in the Mystery, crime and Thriller genres.

McDermid has been writing as a full time author since the success of her initial novels and she spends equal amounts of time in her homes in Edinburgh and Cheshire. She hails from the Kirkcaldy town of Fife in Scotland and completed her college studies from the St. Hilda’s College in Oxford.

McDermid lives along with three cats in Northumberland and Stockport and supports the Raith Rovers team. She also has a border terrier dog and considers the Northumberland coast as one of the relaxing places in the world.

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

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

This will be a short post as I am unwell. I slept right through Friday, so no post – sorry! I returned a negative Covid test yesterday, but am still sleeping on and off all day, have scratchy throat, starting to cough. I have to retest Monday.

I am currently listening to The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley and am almost finished. Actually, I have gone to sleep listening and missed the end three times now – no reflection on the quality of the writing.

I am also reading The Summer we Buried by Jody Gehrman, which I started last night.

This coming week I only have two read for review titles: The Stepchild by Nicole Trope

Three-year-old Millie Everleigh disappears on a crisp winter’s day, and nothing is as it seems…

It’s the phone call every mother dreads.

I’m climbing into the car after a trip to the grocery store. As the engine starts, my phone rings. It’s my stepdaughter, Shelby, who is babysitting my three-year-old little girl Millie.

‘I only went upstairs for a second,’ she says through her sobs. ‘She’s gone.’

I race home to find my blue-eyed baby girl missing, and my heart ripped out of my chest.

When the police turn up, Shelby’s story starts to unravel. What is she hiding?

Then I get a message saying, ‘Your husband is not who you think he is.’ Could he be lying?

Suddenly, my family feel like strangers. Everyone has a secret – even me.

No one knows why I was late coming back from the store, and the guilt I’ve been feeling ever since…

Once the truth comes out, all of our lies exposed, will it be too late to save my precious child?

And A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall which I have already read, but I still need to finish and post my review. It’s a delightful read!

Retirement can be murder…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.

The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.

But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

Hopefully I will be able to knock at least one backlist title from the pile this week.

Netgalley has blessed me with six new ARCs in the past week. They are: Who’s Lying Now? by Susan Lewis

The Ash Lake Murders by Helen H. Durrant, which is the first in a new series.

Blind Justice by David Mark (DS McAvoy #10)

The Other Son by J.M. Hewitt

One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke

and finally, In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

Am heading back to my bed now for some more sleep . . .

The Blood Tide (DS Max Craigie Scottish Crime Thrillers #2) by Neil Lancaster

EXCERPT: ‘We need to get in there,’ Janie said.

Max rattled the door, his stomach beginning to tighten.

Janie went to the decking. She picked up a length of plastic packing strap that had been securing the decking slats together. Within a few seconds she had fashioned a flexible hook. She reached through the cat-flap and passed the loop over the bunch of keys and tugged sharply. The keys fell to the floor.

‘Nice,’ said Max.

‘It’s from working with you and your cockney burglar techniques.’

Within seconds Max was inside the spotless kitchen, sniffing the air once more.

It was faint, but unmistakable. Every cop knew this smell. It started off faint, a mere suggestion of something, just like Max was detecting now. His stomach tightened, his heart began to pound. Max knew. He knew right away.

Death.

ABOUT ‘THE BLOOD TIDE’: You get away with murder.
In a remote sea loch on the west coast of Scotland, a fisherman disappears without trace. His remains are never found.

You make people disappear.
A young man jumps from a bridge in Glasgow and falls to his death in the water below. D. S. Max Craigie uncovers evidence that links both victims. But if he can’t find out what cost them their lives, it won’t be long before more bodies turn up at the morgue…

You come back for revenge.
Soon cracks start to appear in the investigation, and Max’s past hurtles back to haunt him. When his loved ones are threatened, he faces a terrifying choice: let the only man he ever feared walk free, or watch his closest friend die…

MY THOUGHTS: I haven’t yet read the first book in this series, Dead Man’s Grave, but I intend to remedy that. The Blood Tide has me hooked!

Normally I shy away from books about drug running, crime barons, etc., but I kept hearing what a great read The Blood Tide is, and so I caved. And I’m glad I did. Neil Lancaster has another follower.

The plot is driven and intense, the characters a great mix of those who you will love and admire (Max and his team) and the others – variously the drug runners, the crime bosses and those at the very top of the pile in positions of trust, influence and power who are orchestrating the whole despicable operation.

Lancaster sets the scenes well. From his atmospheric descriptions of the Scottish landscape to the minutiae of the crime scenes, he gives just the right amount of detail, neither swamping the reader nor leaving them wanting more. His background in police work shines through making this crime thriller/police procedural a riveting read. The ending is spectacular – I loved it.

The Blood Tide worked well for me as a stand-alone, but I am going back to read the first book in this series because I enjoyed this one so much. I do recommend that if you intend to read The Blood Tide, read Dead Man’s Grave first so that you have all the background to the relationships and because you’ll probably want to go back and read it anyway, so you may as well read them in order from the start.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheBloodTide #NetGalley

I: @neil_lancaster_crime @hqstories

T: @neillancaster66 @HQStories

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #policeprocedural #scottishnoir #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Neil was born in Liverpool in the 1960s. He recently left the Metropolitan Police where he served for over twenty-five years, predominantly as a detective, leading and conducting investigations into some of the most serious criminals across the UK and beyond.

Neil acted as a surveillance and covert policing specialist, using all types of techniques to arrest and prosecute drug dealers, human traffickers, fraudsters, and murderers. During his career, he successfully prosecuted several wealthy and corrupt members of the legal profession who were involved in organised immigration crime. These prosecutions led to jail sentences, multi-million pound asset confiscations and disbarments.

Since retiring from the Metropolitan Police, Neil has relocated to the Scottish Highlands with his wife and son, where he mixes freelance investigations with writing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to HQ, HQ Digital via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Blood Tide by Neil Lancaster 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…

Good Sunday afternoon from New Zealand where some much needed rain clouds are rolling in. Omicron is running rampant and I am grateful to be able to stay home. Small potatoes I know when compared with what happening in the Ukraine. What is wrong with the world leaders? There’s no need for this war. We should all be supporting rather than shooting one another. They should make the leaders who want to fight, fight each other in hand to hand combat and not involve the innocent. It’s all about their egos.

Currently I am reading The Blood Tide by Neil Lancaster. A new author to me, he’s one I will definitely be reading more from. Despite having Luke for the weekend, I read half of it overnight. Of course he woke before it was even light this morning so I am looking forward to my bed tonight.

I am also reading Coast to Coast Murders by James Patterson and J.D. Barker. Loving this. And it’s another title from my backlist.

I am listening to The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page. This is an audiobook that I was approved for during the week.

The first two weeks of March (how did we get here so quickly?) are overloaded with reads for review. I have 9, yes nine, reads for review this week. 😱🤯 I honestly don’t know how this happened. FOMO? No, there just seems to be a lot of really great sounding reads being published this week. My scheduled reads for review are:

The Keeper of Stories (audio) written by Sally Page and narrated by Jessica Whittaker.

She can’t recall what started her collection. Maybe it was in a fragment of conversation overheard as she cleaned a sink? Before long (as she dusted a sitting room or defrosted a fridge) she noticed people were telling her their stories. Perhaps they always had done, but now it is different, now the stories are reaching out to her and she gathers them to her…

Cleaner Janice knows that it is in people’s stories that you really get to know them. From recently-widowed Fiona and her son Adam; to opera-singing Geordie; and the awful Mrs ‘YeahYeahYeah’ and her fox terrier, Decius, Janice has a unique insight into the community around her.

When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B – a shrewd and tricky woman in her nineties – she finally meets someone who wants to hear her story. But Janice is clear: she is the keeper of stories, she doesn’t have a story to tell. At least, not one she can share.

Mrs B is no fool and knows there is more to Janice than meets the eye. What is she hiding? After all, doesn’t everyone have a story to tell? 

The Baby Shower by S.E. Lynes

She doesn’t know I’m there, watching her in the mirror. She slides her hand under her blouse. And then I see something impossible. She isn’t pregnant…

She bursts into my life like a storm, and nothing is the same again. She seems so perfect, with her lilting laugh and her beautiful face. One by one, I watch as my friends fall under her spell.

Only I seem to suspect something. Only I see that her smiles don’t reach her cold, furious eyes. And when I’m accused of things I didn’t do, when my home is vandalized, I know she’s behind it. But she only lets her mask slip when no one is looking, so if I say anything, I’ll look crazy.

So when the baby shower comes around I’m there, sitting on a velvet sofa in a posh hotel room, surrounded by balloons. We share gifts, we pour small glasses of champagne, and she beams, her bump just visible under her bright red shirt.

But that afternoon, I finally learn the unbelievable truth.

There is no baby…

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke – until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list. First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor.

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next…. 

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal–she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault–and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple–until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (audio and Kindle)

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling. 

The Night Shift by Alex Finlay

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey, four teenage girls working the night shift are attacked. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, in the same town, four teenage employees working late at an ice cream store are attacked, and again only one makes it out alive.

Both surviving victims recall the killer speaking only a few final words… “Goodnight, pretty girl.”

In the aftermath, three lives intersect: the survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive her tragedy; the brother of the original suspect, who’s convinced the police have it wrong; and the FBI agent, who’s determined to solve both cases. On a collision course toward the truth, all three lives will forever be changed, and not everyone will make it out alive.

One for Sorrow by Helen Sarah Fields

One for sorrow, two for joy
Edinburgh is gripped by the greatest terror it has ever known. A lone bomber is targeting victims across the city and no one is safe.

Three for a girl, four for a boy
DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach face death every day – and not just the deaths of the people being taken hostage by the killer.

Five for silver, six for gold
When it becomes clear that with every tip-off they are walking into a trap designed to kill them too, Ava and Luc know that finding the truth could mean paying the ultimate price.

Seven for a secret never to be told…
But with the threat – and body count – rising daily, and no clue as to who’s behind it, neither Ava nor Luc know whether they will live long enough to tell the tale… 

The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell

The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria has been serving refreshments and raising money at the hospital for over fifty years, long after anybody can remember who Marjorie Marshall actually was. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, the beloved cafeteria is known as much for offering a kind word and sympathetic ear (and often unsolicited life advice) as for its tea and buns.

Stalwart Hilary has worked her way up through the ranks to Manageress; Joy has been late every day since she started as the cafeteria’s newest recruit. She doesn’t take her role as ‘the intern’ quite as seriously as Hilary would like but there’s no doubt she brings a welcome pop of personality. Seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering during the school holidays because her mother thinks it will look good on her CV.

Chloe is at first bewildered by the two older women but soon realises they have a lot in common, not least that each bears a secret pain. When they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, this unlikely trio must band together to save it.

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook

Western Australia, 1886. After months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage from London to the shores of Bannin Bay. From the deck, young Eliza Brightwell and her family eye their strange, new home. Here is an unforgiving land where fortune sits patiently at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be claimed by those brave enough to venture into its depths. An ocean where pearl shells bloom to the size of soup plates, where men are coaxed into unthinkable places and unspeakable acts by the promise of unimaginable riches.

Ten years later, the pearl-diving boat captained by Eliza’s eccentric father returns after months at sea—without Eliza’s father on it. Whispers from townsfolk point to mutiny or murder. Headstrong Eliza knows it’s up to her to discover who, or what, is really responsible.

As she searches for the truth, Eliza discovers that beneath the glamorous veneer of the pearling industry, lies a dark underbelly of sweltering, stinking decay. The sun-scorched streets of Bannin Bay, a place she once thought she knew so well, are teeming with corruption, prejudice, and blackmail. Just how far is Eliza willing to push herself in order to solve the mystery of her missing father? And what family secrets will come to haunt her along the way?

A transporting feminist adventure story based on Lizzie Pook’s deep research into the pearling industry and the era of British colonial rule in Australia, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is ultimately about the lengths one woman will travel to save her family.

Any ideas where I should start?

I did rather better this week, only two ARCs approved, one of which is an audiobook. They are (audio) The Keeper of Stories which I have already started.

And The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

No matter where you are in the world, please be safe, and let’s all pray that these overgrown schoolyard bullies that run the world have an attack of conscience and pull their heads in.