The Devil Stone (DCI Christine Caplan #1) by Caro Ramsay

EXCERPT: ‘Hey, look.’ Bainsey shone the light across the floor, catching a maggot-ridden goat’s head perched on a red velvet chaise longue; from it ran a trickle of dried liquid, two bright goblets on either side. Two daggers, their blades dull and stained, were arranged in between. There was a black figurine, goat-headed, winged and fork-tailed as a centrepiece and, as the beam of light dropped, he saw the inverted cross and the charred book. Even he could guess, from its feather-thin pages, that it was a bible.

He started saying something that Scotto couldn’t make out, then his eyes closed, opened again, and he smiled before moving the light down, giggling a little, jerking the phone, causing the beam to drop suddenly where it caught the ghostly white face staring at the ceiling with nacreous clouded eyes. Unable to stop himself, he looked along. Another face. Then another. Five of them in a row, cheek to cheek.

ABOUT ‘THE DEVIL STONE’: In the small Highland village of Cronchie, a wealthy family are found brutally murdered in a satanic ritual and their heirloom, ‘the devil stone’, is the only thing stolen. The key suspects are known satanists – case closed? But when the investigating officer disappears after leaving the crime scene, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to investigate from Glasgow in a case that could restore her reputation.

Caplan knows she is being punished for a minor misdemeanour when she is seconded to the Highlands, but ever the professional, she’s confident she can quickly solve the murders, and return home to her fractious family. But experience soon tells her that this is no open and shut case.

She suspects the murder scene was staged, and with the heir to the family estate missing, there is something more at play than a mythical devil stone. As she closes in on the truth, it is suddenly her life, not her reputation that is danger! Will Caplan’s first Highland murder case be her last?

MY THOUGHTS: The Devil Stone is the first crime thriller in a new series featuring the recently demoted DI Christine Caplan. She’s very good at her job – no one is arguing about that – but the result of her being distracted from the job by her fractious family has resulted in her demotion. A demotion that no one is easily going to let her forget. The mistake she has taken responsibility for is the source of much good and not-so-good natured ribbing.

The problems with her husband Aklen are treated like some sort of mystery with little bits of information dribbled out throughout the book. Personally, I found this really annoying. I was waiting for this big reveal, something shocking, traumatic. It wasn’t and I would rather have had this information from the start. She also has problems with teenage son, Kenny. Daughter Emma is intelligent, kind and focused.

Christine’s team on this case are a mixed bag. Kinsella, an inexperienced DCI – Christine’s old rank, is pleasant and seems to have a good human touch. But while he is struggling under the weight of his new responsibilities, he seems to be wary of trusting Christine and including her in the investigation. He has teamed her with Craigo, who seems to be a truly unremarkable man. He is the butt of the jokes of the team, and they constantly play pranks on him, for which he falls every time. But in reality, he is bright and hard working, quiet and thoughtful. He has good instincts, but is disinclined to share them. Gourlay is ambitious, and not too choosy about the methods he uses to get to where he wants to be.

There are some incredible characters in this book that I hope we will be seeing more of as the series progresses.

There are multiple threads to this story including police corruption and drug trafficking. There were times during the read that I felt a little confused, but everything is tied up neatly at the end.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheDevilStone #NetGalley

I: : #caroramsay @severnhouseimprint

T: @CaroRamsayBooks @severnhouse

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Caro Ramsay was born and brought up in Glasgow, and now lives in a village on the west coast of Scotland. She is an osteopath, acupuncturist and former marathon runner, who devotes much of her time to the complementary treatment of injured wildlife at a local rescue centre. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay 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

Blue Lightning (Shetland Island #4) by Ann Cleeves

EXCERPT: Fran sat with her eyes closed. The small plane dropped suddenly, seemed to fall from the sky, then levelled for a moment before tilting like a fairground ride. She opened her eyes to see a grey cliff ahead of them. It was close enough for her to make out the white streaks of bird muck and last season’s nests. Below, the sea was boiling. Spindrift and white froth caught by the gale-force winds spun over the surface of the water.

Why doesn’t the pilot do something? Why is Jimmy just sitting there, waiting for us to die?

She imagined the impact as the plane hit the rock, twisted metal and twisted bodies. No hope at all of survival. I should have written a will. Who will care for Cassie?

ABOUT ‘BLUE LIGHTNING’: With the autumn storms raging, Fair Isle feels cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped, tension is high and tempers become frayed. Enough to drive someone to murder . . .

A woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair. The islanders react with fear and anger. Detective Jimmy Perez has no support from the mainland and must investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realizes that this is no crime of passion – but a murder of cold and calculated intention.

There’s no way off the island until the storms abate – and so the killer is also trapped, just waiting for the opportunity to strike again.

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, Ann Cleeves, you just ripped my heart to shreds. I screamed ‘Nooooo!’, and I’m sure the whole valley heard me so I’ll apologise to my neighbours now. How could you do that? Have you no heart, woman? I am traumatised, bereft, in emotional pain.

Although I have read most of this wonderful series, Blue Lightning is,to my mind, the outstanding book of the series.

Cleeves has created a ‘locked room’ murder mystery in an incredibly atmospheric setting with a wonderful cast of characters.

Jimmy has brought his bride-to-be, Fran, home to meet his family and to celebrate his upcoming nuptials with the islanders, the people he grew up with. But like all best laid plans, his are derailed by a murder on the island and since they are cut off by the weather, Jimmy has to assume the role of investigator.

Beyond that, I am saying nothing about the plot. Cleeves, as always, kept me guessing to the end. There were plenty of red herrings and twists to keep me on my toes and I read this in record time.

A magnificent piece of writing.

The audiobook is superbly narrated by Kenny Blyth.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hidden Crimes (DCI Sophie Allen #11) by Michael Hambling

EXCERPT: Billy didn’t know what to do. He was fifteen and had spent his whole life living in the rooms above the shop. He’d gone to the local primary school, followed by a secondary education at the state school in Shaftesbury. He was hoping to stay for a few more years there, in the sixth form, to study for a technology based qualification. Agricultural engineering – that was the future in an area like this. He had always been fairly contented with his life. School, football, occasional parties with a few friends. And then odd things had started to happen. Unexpected things. Really nasty things. He’d quietly withdrawn from some of the organisations that had formed a part of his childhood, but no one had really noticed or made any comments, not even his parents. And now this. Could Grant somehow have become a victim? And had his mum found out? Is that why she was dead and he was missing? Grant would be dead too, of course. It was only a matter of time before his body turned up somewhere.

Billy wasn’t just scared. He was terrified. He realised just what a sheltered life he’d led. And now this. It was like looking down from the top of a sheer cliff, staring into the raging sea below. And knowing that one false step could be fatal. He needed to back away gently and keep his head down.

ABOUT ‘HIDDEN CRIMES’: Exploring a foggy Wiltshire hill path, a walker hears a distant scream and calls the police, but the attending officers find nothing.

Two days later, a farmworker comes across a woman’s body, her head bashed in. The victim is quickly identified as Bridget Kirkbride, who lived alone in a small cottage in a pretty nearby village.

Detective Sophie Allen is called in. It’s her first major case as head of the newly-formed Wessex Serious Crime Unit — and she’s under pressure to get a quick result.

Bridget was a mainstay of village life, always ready to help out her neighbours. No one has a bad word to say about her.

So who killed her?

Her supposedly devoted son, Grant, has disappeared without trace.

Then a body is pulled out of a reed bed in the River Severn.

Sophie and her team are in a race against time to uncover the truth before anyone else pays the ultimate price.

MY THOUGHTS: DCI Sophie Allen is Dorset’s acknowledged expert on murder and violent crime. Sophie has just been promoted to Chief Superintendent of the Wessex Serious Crimes Unit, overseeing investigations across Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset. She is in her late forties, and lives with her husband in Wareham. She has two grown-up daughters. Sophie has a law degree and a master’s in criminal psychology, but her brilliant mind conceals some dark secrets from her past.

Set on the Dorset/Wiltshire border joining two beautiful English rural counties, the stunning countryside belies the darkness beneath the surface.

And in Hidden Crimes, darkness certainly lurks in this picture perfect, chocolate box setting. Someone has a secret, and they are prepared to kill to keep it.

Although I guessed the perpetrator early on – something they said rang warning bells and then more and more evidence accumulated – it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this, the 11th installment of the series, at all. If you are new to this series, I don’t suggest that you start with this book as many of the relationships are longstanding and a certain amount of background knowledge is required.

Michael Hambling has written a good, solid police procedural/murder mystery with a dash of intrigue and suspense encompassing the topics of grooming and abuse.

I like Sophie’s character and the fact that she has a good supportive relationship with both her team members, her superiors, and her family. It makes a welcome change from everyone trying to stab one another in the back.

A wedding provides a bit of light relief.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#HIDDENCRIMES #JoffeBooks

I: @joffebooks

T: @JoffeBooks

www.michaelhambling.co.uk

THE AUTHOR: Like many writers, I have been a keen reader all of my life. I remember one particular day as a nine-year-old during the long summer holiday, when I visited my local library in Bristol four times in one day because a child’s ticket only allowed one book out at a time!

I now live in the west-country, in the beautiful cathedral city of Salisbury, although I set my novels in the neighbouring county of Dorset. We own a lovely flat in the small Dorset coastal town of Swanage, and spend a lot of time there, walking the famous Jurassic Coast world heritage site. The early novels in the series are based there, on the Isle of Purbeck, one of the UK’s most beautiful coastal regions. But the rest of the county of Dorset does get a look in, and there are scenes set in other locations in the central south of England.

I write because I constantly create scenes, people, imaginary conversations and unusual situations in my head. I have always done so, ever since I was a child. I take great pride in my writing, constantly reshaping and polishing until it’s as good as I can make it, though the editorial team at Joffe Books always manage to improve it further.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Joffe Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Hidden Crimes (DCI Sophie Allen #11) by Michael Hambling for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

We’ve had no power so no internet all day. Power was restored just a little after 4pm. Thank goodness for the BBQ – I boiled water on it for coffee and made toast on it (not quite as successful) for breakfast and made cheese toasties (much nicer than in the sandwich press) for lunch. This morning was beautiful and sunny and warm, but it was raining again just after lunch and is still raining. I am feeling soggy. Everything is waterlogged and plants are looking miserable. I picked a big bunch of roses this morning before the wind and rain wrecked them. They look lovely on the table. There’s few more days of this weather forecast before we get a high pressure system and some sun. It feels like it’s been raining forever!

Currently I am reading and loving Table for Eight by Tricia Stringer – a purely for pleasure read.

The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Isla Evens, a Netgalley 2021 backtitle I was motivated to read as it’s one of the Goodreads.com Aussie Reader’s Group reads for November. So far it’s a fun read about some serious issues.

Two women abduct and hide out with their four-year-old granddaughter Avery, who they suspect is being harmed. They both love Avery … shame they can’t stand each other. A wise and witty novel for readers of Sophie Green and Brooke Davis.

What would you do to protect a child?

Beth’s daughter Cleo and Shirley’s son Daniel used to be married. Now Cleo is in gaol for supposedly contravening a family violence order, and Daniel has full-time care of their four-year-old daughter, Avery.

When Shirley suspects that Daniel is harming Avery, she enlists Beth to abduct their own granddaughter, even though the two women can’t stand each other. They are joined on the run across country Victoria by Winnie, Shirley’s own 89-year-old tech-savvy mother, and Harthacnut, Beth’s miniature schnauzer.

The abduction gives rise to crises both personal and social, as Shirley’s large and interfering family – including her toxic son – struggle to come to terms with her actions, amid a whirl of police investigation and media excitement. This heartfelt, wise, witty and wholly original novel explores of the lengths we may go to for those we love, and the unintended damage folded into daily life. 

I am listening to The Book of Cold Cases written by Simone St. James and narrated by Brittany Pressley , Kirsten Potter , and Robert Petkoff .

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect – a rich, eccentric 23-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017, Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases – a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

This week I have four books to read for review, which should be able to achieve. They are: Isabel Puddles Abroad by M.V. Byrne

Isabel has crafted a life she loves in her Lake Michigan hometown, but she’s eager to use her golden years to make up for missed opportunities. That’s why she’s traveling to England for the first time to visit her pen pal, Teddy Mansfield, an acclaimed mystery writer who lives just outside the village of Mousehole, Cornwall. First impressions are charming–Isabel is staying in the guest cottage on the grounds of Teddy’s beautiful country manor, and Mousehole is home to an assortment of characters as colorful as any in Teddy’s books.

Teddy’s housekeeper, Tuppence, is a dab hand at baking–her scones are regularly runner-up in the village bake-off, and this year she’s determined to scoop top prize. But it appears that other, possibly more dangerous rivalries have been brewing in Mousehole. And when a resident is found pushing up daisies in a flowerbed, Isabel is drawn into an investigation that will require all of her newly honed skills to solve–and to survive . . .

The Hemsworth Effect by James Weir

It started with the Hemsworths. Now, Byron Bay local, Aimee Maguire, is about to lose everything because she can’t afford to pay the rent. Her engagement is also on an official time-out since her fiancé doesn’t know what he wants. The last thing she needs is a surprise visit from her micro-influencer niece looking to ‘build her brand’.

Her arrival sets off a chain of events that ends with Aimee tangled up with a group of influencers-turned-reality TV stars, exposing her to the absolute worst of humanity. But somewhere amid this mother of all messes there just might be a silver lining Aimee has been searching for. All she needs to do is embrace the one thing she’s been fighting so hard against – change.

Cashed-up celebs, desperate wannabes, cranky Karens and cringe-worthy hashtags – it’s all here in this hilarious novel about the celebrification of Byron Bay and the power of letting go. 

The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley

Evelyn Pringle isn’t the sort to make rash decisions. Or any decisions, really – she’s always left that sort of thing up to her husband. But he’s been found dead, wearing his best suit, with a diamond ring in his pocket that doesn’t fit her. When Evelyn finds a letter addressed to a woman on the Isle of Wight, she decides to deliver it. By hand.

So begins a very unusual holiday, and an adventure no one could have predicted – least of all Evelyn herself. With the help of some unexpected new friends, and a little effort on her part, Evelyn discovers that it is never too late to have a second chance at life and forge friendships that are well-worth living for.

The Devil Stone (DCI Christine Caplan #1) by Caro Ramsay

In the small Highland village of Cronchie, a wealthy family are found brutally murdered in a satanic ritual and their heirloom, ‘the devil stone’, is the only thing stolen. The key suspects are known satanists – case closed? But when the investigating officer disappears after leaving the crime scene, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to investigate from Glasgow in a case that could restore her reputation.

Caplan knows she is being punished for a minor misdemeanour when she is seconded to the Highlands, but ever the professional, she’s confident she can quickly solve the murders, and return home to her fractious family. But experience soon tells her that this is no open and shut case.

She suspects the murder scene was staged, and with the heir to the family estate missing, there is something more at play than a mythical devil stone. As she closes in on the truth, it is suddenly her life, not her reputation that is in danger! Will Caplan’s first Highland murder case be her last?

Seven new ARCs from Netgalley made their way into my inbox during the past week 😬😊 They are:

No One Saw It Coming by Susan Lewis

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

The audiobook of The Vanishing of Margaret Small written by Nick Alexander and narrated by Annie Aldingham

Death Comes to Marlow (Marlow Murder Club #2) by Robert Thorogood

The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

Sunrise With the Silver Surfers by Maddie Please

The Devine Doughnut Shop by Carolyn Brown

I’m off to cook dinner – chicken burgers with rosemary parmesan roast potato cubes. Have a wonderful week – reading and generally. ❤📚

Hidden Scars (DI Kim Stone #17) by Angela Marsons

EXCERPT: The hammer rises in the air.

It falls with unflinching certainty.

The sound of bone cracking fills the silence. Then a moan, a gurgle as blood begins to pour from the hole in her head. In this light it appears black. The glistening richness of the liquid is caught in the lamplight as it escapes like lava from a volcano and runs down the line of her hair.

I am horrified by what I see and yet liberated too. There is no more indecision. No more doubt. We are beyond the point of return. It cannot be undone.

ABOUT ‘HIDDEN SCARS’: While Jamie’s cold, lifeless body lay in the morgue, Detective Kim Stone stared at the empty board in the incident room and felt her anger boil. Why were there no photos, details, or lines of enquiry?

When a nineteen-year-old boy, Jamie Mills, is found hanging from a tree in a local park, his death is ruled a suicide. Detective Kim Stone’s instincts tell her something isn’t right – but it’s not her investigation and her temporary replacement is too busy waiting for the next big case to be asking the right questions.

Why would a seemingly healthy boy choose to end his life?
Why does his mother show no sign of emotional distress at the loss of her son?

Still mending her broken mind and body from her last harrowing case, Kim is supposed to be easing back into work gently. But then she finds a crucial, overlooked detail: Jamie had a recent injury that would have made it impossible for him to climb the tree. He must have been murdered.

Quickly taking back charge of her team and the case, Kim visits Jamie’s parents and is shocked to hear that they had sent him to a clinic to ‘cure’ him of his sexuality. According to his mother, Jamie was introverted and prone to mood swings. Yet his friend speaks of a vibrant, outgoing boy.

The clues to smashing open this disturbing case lie behind the old Victorian walls of the clinic, run by the Gardner family. They claim that patients come of their own accord and are free to leave at any time. But why are those that attended the clinic so afraid to speak of what happens there? And where did the faded restraint marks identified on Jamie’s wrists come from?

Then the body of a young woman is found dead by suffocation and Kim makes two chilling discoveries. The victim spent time at the clinic too, and her death was also staged to look like a suicide.

Scarred from an ordeal that nearly took her life, is Kim strong enough to stop a terrifying killer from silencing the clinic’s previous patients one by one?

MY THOUGHTS: If you haven’t read any previous books in this series, do not start with this. To fully appreciate Hidden Scars the reader needs to know Kim’s backstory and her relationship with her colleagues. Hidden Scars definitely will not work as a stand-alone.

Where to begin? Kim is haunted but resilient, especially when the future of her team is threatened by the incompetence of the DI supposedly holding it all together in her absence.

Kim’s character continues to grow in Hidden Scars and the title of the book reflects Kim’s circumstances as accurately as several of the other characters who feature. She reveals a certain vulnerability that we have not seen before and which takes a bit of getting used to.

Bryant is somewhat responsible for this, deciding that Kim has gotten away with far too much for far too long and gives her a lesson on the meaning and obligations of friendship. And Yay! – we finally learn his first name!

Penn is having to learn a few lessons too, relating to loosening the reins on his younger Downs Syndrome brother who is a bit more switched on than Penn realises.

And where would the team be without Stacey? Dogged and determined she often bears the brunt of the desk work due to her ability to pick up on clues in background information that the others tend to miss.

The mysteries are intriguing, and the main thread is interspersed with the viewpoint of an unknown person which doesn’t quite make sense until almost the very end. The reason for this gobsmacked me! A great storyline and a great twist.

The main storyline includes a great deal of information on conversion therapy, to the point where several times I felt like I was being educated. And I was. I knew what conversion therapy was before I started reading Hidden Scars, but I really had no idea of the extremes to which it could be taken.

But the murders – some staged to look like suicide – are the main focus of the storyline. Marsons is an extremely clever writer, and I had to backtrack a couple of times to check on clues I had missed, but still I had absolutely no idea until the final reveal as to who was behind them. I loved the way the historical murder was also tied in.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#HiddenScars #NetGalley

I: @angelamarsonsauthor @bookouture

T: @WriteAngie @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #fivestarread #crime #detectivefiction #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries.
She used the Amazon KDP program to publish two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Hidden Scars by Angela Marsons 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 and – it’s still raining! Apparently we’re getting all the heavy rain out of Australia that caused the recent heavy flooding in New South Wales. We had a couple of fine days during the week and I managed to get a bit more done outside, but I have had to postpone the delivery of the river stone I had ordered for the garden as the truck won’t be able to get to where I need it dumped until after everything has dried out a bit.

Luke has gone home to collect his new pup from the breeders – a black labrador he has named Timmy after the dog in the Famous Five series which he just loves. I picked him up from school on Friday, in the midst of a downpour and I had to park quite some distance from school – and we had a very lazy day together yesterday, reading, doing puzzles and watching TV. We did pop outside to the garden during a fine spell and picked strawberries and lettuce leaves. There’s nothing nicer than strawberries fresh out of the garden!

Currently I am reading The Doctor’s Wife by New Zealand author Fiona Sussman, thanks to a recommendation from Sybil, one of our library book group members. I haven’t read this author before but have been unable to put this down.

Nothing in Stan Andino’s unremarkable life could prepare him for the day he discovers his wife in the living room, naked except for a black apron, bleaching out a stain in the carpet that only she can see. A CT scan one week later explains the seemingly inexplicable; Carmen Andino has a brain tumour. As Stan and their teenage sons grapple with the diagnosis and frightening personality changes in their wife and mother, Austin Lamb, close friend and local doctor, does everything possible to assist the family in crisis. Months later, just when it feels as though life couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Andinos, the body of Austin Lamb’s wife Tibbie is discovered at the bottom of the Browns Bay cliffs.

Hidden Crimes (DCI Sophie Allen #11) by Michael Hambling

Nine Elms (Kate Marshall #1) by Robert Bryndza, a backtitle from 2019. I have the rest of the series to read also.

Kate Marshall was a promising young police detective when she caught the notorious Nine Elms serial killer. But her greatest victory suddenly turned into a nightmare. Traumatized, betrayed, and publicly vilified for the shocking circumstances surrounding the cannibal murder case, Kate could only watch as her career ended in scandal.

Fifteen years after those catastrophic events, Kate is still haunted by the unquiet ghosts of her troubled past. Now a lecturer at a small coastal English university, she finally has a chance to face them. A copycat killer has taken up the Nine Elms mantle, continuing the ghastly work of his idol.

Enlisting her brilliant research assistant, Tristan Harper, Kate draws on her prodigious and long-neglected skills as an investigator to catch a new monster. Success promises redemption, but there’s much more on the line: Kate was the original killer’s intended fifth victim…and his successor means to finish the job.

And I am listening to Blue Lightning (Shetland Isles #4) by Ann Cleeves

Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancee, Fran, to his parents. When a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, Jimmy must investigate the old-fashioned way.”

This week I have only two other reads scheduled: The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter

There’s something in my neighbour’s attic.

Something steeped in shadows. A secret to everyone. Seen by no one…

He stands sometimes at the window. Hidden in the corner of my eye.

I know he’s there. I know he’s watching.

Now my son is dead. My neighbour is not.

And I’m going to find out why.

And On Spine of Death (By the Book Mysteries #2) by Tamara Berry

In the aftermath of solving their first murder, bestselling author Tess Harrow and her teenage daughter Gertrude have decided to stay in Winthrop permanently. Now that they’ve made some updates to their cabin in the woods, they’re turning to the family hardware store that Tess inherited and converting it into the town’s first independent bookstore. But when renovations unearth bones from a cold case and send them toppling—literally—onto Tess’s head, the work comes to a grinding halt. With the whole town convinced that her grandfather was a serial killer, Tess has to call in a fellow horror author for reinforcements. Together, they’ll come up with a perfect story to make all the clues fit…and solve a mystery more than thirty years in the making.

I also managed to pick up a Tricia Stringer novel from the library when I was at book group that I haven’t read – Table for Eight – so I want to read that this week too. I’m looking forward to my virtual cruise around the Pacific Islands!

A cruise – no matter how magical – can’t change your life. Can it…? Clever, charming dressmaker Ketty Clift is embarking on her final cruise from Sydney before she must make serious changes in her life. Supported by the ship’s all-powerful maitre d’ Carlos, she has a mission: transform the lives of those who join her at her dining table every evening. Not only can Ketty turn Cinderellas into princesses with her legendary style–eye, but she has a gift for bringing people together. But this trip is different. As the glamour and indulgence of the cruise takes hold, and the ship sails further away from Sydney towards the Pacific Islands, it becomes clear that her fellow travelers – a troubled family, a grieving widower and an angry divorcee determined to wreak revenge on her ex – are going to be harder work than usual. As Ketty tries to deal with her own problems, including the unexpected arrival on board of her long-lost love, Leo – the man who broke her heart – as well as troubling news from home, she begins to realize this might be the one cruise that defeats her…

I received two new ARCs for review via Netgalley this week, and one publishers invite. The invite was for A Pen Dipped in Poison by J.M. Hall

The two ARCs are Reef Road by Deborah Goodrich Royce

and Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, also a New Zealand author I haven’t previously read.

It’s our 18th wedding anniversary today. I have couple of nice steaks to grill for dinner and a nice bottle of French wine (red of course), but I need for the rain to ease off so I can get out to the garden for the salad ingredients. Plan B? Rosemary parmesan fries.

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. Happy reading. ❤📚🥂

Day’s End (Paul Hirschausen #4) by Garry Disher

EXCERPT: Out in that country, if you owned a sheep station the size of a European principality you stood tall. If you were a rent paying public servant, like Hirsch, you stood on the summit of Desolation Hill.

Not much of a hill – but it was desolate. It overlooked patches of saltbush and mallee scrub and a broad, red-ochre gibber plain that stretched to the horizon; wilted wild-flowers here and there, deceived by a rare spring shower.

It also overlooked an image of Wildu, the spirit eagle, carved into the plain: spanning three kilometres from wingtip to wingtip and poised to strike. And Desolation Hill was one of the last places Willi Van Sant had visited before he disappeared.

ABOUT ‘DAY’S END’: Hirsch’s rural beat is wide. Daybreak to day’s end, dirt roads and dust. Every problem that besets small towns and isolated properties, from unlicensed driving to arson. In the time of the virus, Hirsch is seeing stresses heightened and social divisions cracking wide open. His own tolerance under strain; people getting close to the edge.

Today he’s driving an international visitor around: Janne Van Sant, whose backpacker son went missing while the borders were closed. They’re checking out his last photo site, his last employer. A feeling that the stories don’t quite add up.

Then a call comes in: a roadside fire. Nothing much—a suitcase soaked in diesel and set alight. But two noteworthy facts emerge. Janne knows more than Hirsch about forensic evidence. And the body in the suitcase is not her son’s.

MY THOUGHTS: Day’s End is the fourth book in Garry Disher’s Paul Hirschhausen series, and may very well be the best so far – although having said that, two others have also been five star reads. Although Day’s End is part of a series it works well as a stand alone. The author provides enough background information without overwhelming the storyline to enable this.

Day’s End is set during Covid, but again Disher doesn’t let it overwhelm the storyline either, just works it in matter of factly, making good used of the differences in people’s beliefs and the tensions that prevailed.

I love Hirsch’s caring nature. He makes monthly sweeps of the outlying areas, calling in to remote dwellings to check on the occupants, alleviate their loneliness, and to observe. Most places he is welcome, some he isn’t.

Tiverton, like most small remote towns, has fallen victim to the scourge of drugs. Unemployment is high, there’s nothing for the youth to do other than to amuse themselves with petty, and not so petty, crime and get off their faces on whatever is to hand. In direct contrast to this is the lives lead by the privileged and wealthy in the area – new SUVs, a helicopter or two, boarding schools, and horses.

As is normal, there are several threads to this story: A missing man and his girlfriend; Hirsch’s ongoing relationship with high school math teacher Wendy; bullying; racial tensions – I love the character of Aunty Steph! – including white supremacy; drugs; thefts; graffiti; and assaults. But there’s also something big going down – Hirsch is ordered to pull his head in by the Federal Police who have suddenly appeared in his little corner of the world. Yet not one thread overwhelms another – they all meld seamlessly to create a masterful portrait of Hirsh’s life.

I was immediately immersed in Hirsch’s world from the first paragraph and was delighted to remain there until closing the cover on that final, and dramatic, ending.

Disher is an author who paints pictures with his words and brings his characters to life.

Favorite Line: ‘Their high achiever was Jacob. Arrested for stealing a car, he’d arrived at his magistrate’s hearing in a car he’d stolen to get himself there.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#DaysEnd #NetGalley

I: @text_publishing

T: @GarryDisher @text_publishing

THE AUTHOR: Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents’ farm in South Australia.

He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full time writer in 1988.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Day’s End by Garry Disher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon. I spent a couple of hours in the garden yesterday afternoon, and was planning on doing the same today but we keep having heavy downpours – brief but heavy – so I have given up and have started researching upgrading the bathroom instead. Currently we have a separate toilet, separate shower room, and a separate bathroom. We’re planning on knocking out the walls and making it into one room. There are so many options it is mind-boggling! If you have any advice, something you didn’t do but wish you had, or something you did but wish you hadn’t, I’d love to hear about it. At the moment I just feel confused.

Currently I am reading Outback (DS Walker #1) by Patricia Wolf

Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.

DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown, Caloodie, looking after his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers vanish from the area on their way to a ranch, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police, when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?

As the number of days the couple are missing climbs, DS Walker is joined by the girl’s sister. A detective herself from Berlin, she is desperate to find her before it’s too late.

Walker remains convinced there is more at play. Working in the organised crime unit has opened his eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia’s remote interior. Could this be connected?

As temperatures soar, the search intensifies to a thrilling crescendo against the unforgiving backdrop of the scorching Australian summer. 

Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman

Murder stalks the cobbles in England’s finest Georgian town…

When an accident forces Felicia Grant back to her family’s auction house in Stamford, she vows it’ll only be a flying visit. But as the gavel falls on the final lot, a hidden secret is revealed—the body of her father’s business rival, murdered during the packed sale!

Soon, Felicia is swept into a mystery that has everyone in the community as a potential suspect―including her.

As the body count rises and with the people she loves under threat, Felicia takes matters into her own hands. But even the most picturesque place has its secrets… 

And I am listening to Forgive Me by Susan Lewis

I can’t forgive myself. Not after what I did. Could you?

This is Claudia Winters’s last chance for a fresh start. Changing her name and leaving her old life behind, she has fled to the small town of Kesterly with her mother and daughter. Here, she hopes they can be safe for the first time in years.

But the past can’t stay hidden forever. And even as Claudia makes new friends and builds a new life, she can’t help feeling it’s all about to catch up with her… Until one disastrous night changes everything forever.

This week, in addition to Outback and Death at an Auction, I have two other books to read for review.

Hidden Crimes (DCI Sophie Allen #11) by Michael Hambling

Exploring a foggy Wiltshire hill path, a walker hears a distant scream and calls the police, but the attending officers find nothing.

Two days later, a farmworker comes across a woman’s body, her head bashed in. The victim is quickly identified as Bridget Kirkbride, who lived alone in a small cottage in a pretty nearby village.

Detective Sophie Allen is called in. It’s her first major case as head of the newly-formed Wessex Serious Crime Unit — and she’s under pressure to get a quick result.

Bridget was a mainstay of village life, always ready to help out her neighbours. No one has a bad word to say about her.

So who killed her?

Her supposedly devoted son, Grant, has disappeared without trace.

Then a body is pulled out of a reed bed in the River Severn.

Sophie and her team are in a race against time to uncover the truth before anyone else pays the ultimate price.

And Just Like Family by Barbara Casey

All in one day, thirty-five-year-old Hallie Marsh learns that the man she loves, works for, and is living with has found someone else-and that she no longer has a job, a place to live, or a car since she crashed it into a hedge. Her feelings of rage and desire for revenge are soon replaced by a fascination with her new neighbors-four peculiar, elderly people who decide to buy an old run-down estate, fix it up, and live in it “just like family.”

This week I received six new titles for review via Netgalley, including Hidden Crimes by Michael Hambling. They are:

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

The Collector by Anne Mette Hancock

The Whispering Dead by David Mark

The Murder Garden by Alice Castle

And The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland

Is there anything there that interests you?

Happy reading and have a wonderful week! ❤📚

The Tilt by Chris Hammer

EXCERPT: Rural Homicide. A huge career leap. And Dubbo is so much bigger than her previous posting in Bourke, with a cinema, a library, a base hospital, air and rail links through to Sydney. Positively cosmopolitan. And now she’s not just a detective, but a homicide detective. The crėme de la crème. But she’s learnt not to let her eagerness show, knowing how it rankles with Ivan. He believes he’s been sidelined, warehoused, demoted in all but rank. For him, Dubbo is to be endured, survived.

Nell eats her roll, looking past Ivan. The streetscape seems vaguely familiar, the outer reaches of her childhood. But all the towns out here look the same: roads that are too wide, trees that are too far apart, air that is too dry.

She’s heading home. Her family is there, unaware of her imminent arrival, but she feels them waiting just the same. She’s not sure how she feels about that. She knows she should have called ahead, but in the rush to get going she didn’t have the chance. That’s what she tells herself. Ivan had only called her this morning, first thing, and she’d rushed to pack. And she doesn’t want to call from the car, not with him listening. Better to separate the personal from the professional.

ABOUT ‘THE TILT’: A man runs for his life in a forest.
A woman plans sabotage.
A body is unearthed.

Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?

MY THOUGHTS: Geologic tilting, also known as tectonic tilting, occurs when the earth’s surface layers begin to tilt or slant irregularly.

The Tilt is a complex multigenerational story set over three time periods: the 1940s, the 1970s and the present day. The storyline gradually unfolds when newly promoted Nell Buchanan and her boss Ivan Lucic are called in to investigate the discovery of a skeleton when a water regulator is sabotaged. Neither Nell nor Ivan have high hopes of solving this historic case, but then a second and more recent body is discovered close by.

Hammer interweaves environment issues with great dexterity into the body of this thriller set on the shores of the once great Murray River. The action takes place variously in an Italian POW camp, a car dismantling yard, and a small town currently inhabited by Twitchers, crazy right wingers and Neo-Nazis.

Nell’s investigation stirs up old family feuds and rearranges a family tree. Parts of this investigation are very personal to Nell’s own family.

Although this is a complex storyline, it is a compelling read. I did feel that the terrorist thread was probably a step too far. The plot would have been perfectly fine without it.

I must be getting used to narrator, Dorje Swallow, as I found his narration much smoother than previously.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheTilt #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @thehammernow @wfhowes

T: @hammerNow @WFHowes

#audiobook #australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #smalltownfiction #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

Retribution by Sarah Barrie

EXCERPT: The cold envelops me. It takes a moment to figure out up from down, then the boat propeller kicks in too close to me and I push my arms out and kick my legs to send me backwards, out of the way. I push up for air, but my sleeve has caught on something. I exhale sharply at the unexpected jolt. I fling my body in all directions trying to get free from whatever it is I’m attached to. Something shifts. I feel the bump as it rises level with me then I’m staring as two cloudy eyes gaze sightlessly back at me from a damaged, discoloured face. The body it belongs to hovers inches from me, hair floating around the face, reaching out to mine, surrounding me with death.

ABOUT ‘RETRIBUTION’: Ace hacker, ex-prostitute, Jack Daniels drinker and part-time vigilante Lexi Winter returns, now working with the police – mostly – with a new enemy in the target and an old foe at the back of her mind.

Most probationary constables would baulk at chasing a drug dealer into a train tunnel in the dead of night. Not Lexi Winter. She emerges injured but alive, to face the wrath of her boss. Lexi may now be in uniform, but she has as much trouble with authority as ever, and is quietly using her hacking skills to investigate a notorious drug-dealing Sydney crime family with links to her old prey, the paedophile Damon Vaughn.

Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Finn Carson investigates a death on a Sydney building site … which oddly enough, leads him to the picturesque Wondabyne station on the Hawkesbury River, and Inspector Rachael Langley oversees an investigation that could tie it all together. Lexi holds the key … if only she’ll toe the line …

MY THOUGHTS: Whew! I feel like I have just run a marathon after reading the second half of Retribution in one sitting. Talk about intense and action packed – I couldn’t put it down, not until I knew, for sure, what the outcome was.

I have to admit that during the first half of this book Lexi’s being a cop didn’t sit easily with me, but then she also struggles with the change in her profession – often. She finds it hard to ‘play nice’ with the others, to be part of a team. She doesn’t like to share unless she’s getting something in return. But I have to admire her grit, her determination; but the things she does, the lengths she goes to, the risks she takes, scare me.

I also missed Dawny, who only makes a remote appearance in the very last paragraph. But I am predicting that she will make a reappearance in the next book.

There’s also a lovely cat rehomed after his owner disappears, called Gizmo. We’ll also be seeing more of him.

The setting of this book, the Central Coast in New South Wales, is an area I am familiar with and I enjoyed those, ‘Oh, I’ve been there!’ moments.

There is a lot of violence in Retribution, but there are also some beautifully touching moments, like when Lexi discovers a memorial site at an abandoned dam in the bush. Slightly creepy, but touching. There are also some humorous moments, most of them coming from Lexi’s mouth. She has a wicked sense of humour.

I can’t wait to see where Sarah Barrie is going to take Lexi next, because this is not over yet. Not by a long shot.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

#Retribution #NetGalley

I: @authorsarahbarrie @harlequinaus

T: #AuthorSarahBarrie @HarlequinAUS

#australiancrimefiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery #policeprocedural #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Barrie is a bestselling Australian author writing suspense in rural settings, with a generous splash of romance. Her debut bestselling print novel, Secrets of Whitewater Creek, earned her a spot as one of the Top 10 breakthrough authors of 2014, and her next three books, the Hunters Ridge series, also reached best seller status. She has finaled in several major awards, twice in the RUBY, the Romance Writers of Australia’s premier award, and three times in The Australian Romance Readers Award for favourite Romantic Suspense.

In other incarnations, Sarah has worked as a teacher, a vet nurse, a horse trainer and a magazine editor. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her ferrying children to soccer or gymnastics, or trudging through paddocks chasing cattle, sheep, chickens or the Houdini pig that never stays put very long. Occasionally, she’ll attempt to ride her favourite horse who’s quite a bit smarter than she is, and not always cooperative.

Her favourite place in the world is the family property, where she writes her stories overlooking mountains crisscrossed with farmland, bordered by the beauty of the Australian bush, and where, at the end of the day, she can spend time with family, friends, a good Irish whiskey and a copy of her next favourite book. (Australianfictionauthors.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ, for providing a digital ARC of Retribution by Sarah Barrie 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 my webpage