A Cornish Recipe for Murder (the Nosey Parker Mysteries #5) by Fiona Leitch

EXCERPT: So, to misquote Dickens, (he) was dead: to begin with. But his ghost seemed to horror over the baking tent the next day.

I’d woken that morning, alone (Nathan had texted me around 11 p.m. saying he was only just finishing up at the crime scene, and that he didn’t want to disturb Mum or Daisy by coming around so late). I’d fallen asleep swearing that I would not get involved in the investigation this time. I had the competition to think of, and although Nathan was too lovely to say anything he probably didn’t really want me getting in the way. Even if, in the past, he’d made a point of involving me, grilling me for local information and giving up (fairly easily) at my repeated attempts to insinuate myself into his detective work. But that had probably only been because he fancied me and he wanted an excuse for us to spend time together. We didn’t need to do that now.

I’d fallen asleep thinking that, but of course the next morning I woke up and immediately thought, I wonder if forensics came up with anything? And I knew the chances of me concentrating on Italian meringues, croquembouches, and sponge cakes when there was a murderer on the loose were pretty slim.

ABOUT ‘A CORNISH RECIPE FOR MURDER’: When popular TV baking contest and national institution ‘The Best of British Baking Roadshow’ rolls into town and sets up camp in the grounds of Boskern House, a historic stately home near Penstowan, former police officer Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker finds herself competing to represent Cornwall in the grand final.

But with a fellow contestant who will stop at nothing to win and a drag queen host with secrets of their own, Jodie discovers that the roadshow doesn’t just have the ingredients for the perfect showstopper cake, but also for the perfect murder…

And when a body is found in the grounds of the house, Jodie is drawn into another high-stakes case along with local DCI Nathan Withers.

Can Jodie expose the culprit? Or will the murderer become the real showstopper?

MY THOUGHTS: This is the second book I have read in this series, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first.

Now I know some people have a problem with ‘ordinary people’ insinuating themselves into police murder investigations, BUT Jodie is an ex-policewoman turned caterer. So she does know what she is doing. It just adds a little more authenticity to the storyline.

I like the characters in this series. I love Jodie’s inquisitive nature, and her nickname suits her perfectly. Jodie’s mum, Shirley, is a real character with lots of witty and sometimes cheesy repartee, but it works. Daisy must be the dream teenager, although she’s not averse to a bit of subterfuge or manipulation to get her own way. She’s bright, and it’s lovely to have three generations of the same family living and working together. I doubt Nathan could get away with what he gets away with here in real life but, hey, it’s fiction and it’s a fun and entertaining read that kept me interested and invested from start to finish.

The mystery is a good solid one, solved by following the clues and good old fashioned detective work. I love that I’m not required to suspend belief, and that the characters don’t take stupid risks or put themselves in danger.

The writing flows nicely, and the setting of a ‘bake-off’ is a stroke of genius. I enjoyed getting to know the bake-off contestants, and I have kept a copy of the recipe for the Rich Cornish Fruit Cake with Saffron and Orange. There are other lovely sounding confections mentioned throughout the book and I have made a note of some so that I can look up the recipes.

A quick and deliciously entertaining read best not tackled on an empty stomach!

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#ACornishRecipeforMurder #NetGalley

I: @leitchfiona @onemorechapterhc

T: @fkleitch @OneMoreChapter

#christmasfiction #contemporaryfiction #cookbook #cozymystery #detectivefiction #domesticdrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Cornish Recipe for Murder by Fiona Leitch 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

The Hidden Truth by Hilary Boyd

EXCERPT: Sara got up at four on Sunday morning to drive Peggy and a mountainous, clanking backpack to the airport. Coming back to the empty house – it was still barely eight o’clock – she felt a wave of self-pity. What’s wrong with me these days? Sunday stretched ahead and she thought of all the couples waking to each other, to a day spent lazing around with croissants and coffee, chatting and exchanging views on the papers, maybe meeting friends for lunch. Sara had friends, of course, but she was heartily sick of being the sad single at these gatherings, always having to enter a room alone, often being set up with another sad single – kindly meant, but embarrassing.

The buck always stopped with her. No one else would ring the insurance company to complain about a hike in renewal payments, or the service centre when the washing machine leaked all over the kitchen floor – as it had only the previous week. There was no one at whom to shout her frustration when her laptop crashed, a client played up, or even just relay day-to-day anecdotes to – about an amusing exchange she’d heard in the supermarket queue, for instance, or something she’d read somewhere. She’d just been plodding along in her own private lane since Pete, not really considering her situation that closely. But now this version of the world was beginning to seem less appealing. Fortified by a cup of coffee and some summer berries with yoghurt and local honey, she reached for her phone and opened the dating app.

ABOUT ‘THE HIDDEN TRUTH’: Sara Tempest has been alone since her husband died and daughters left home. But over the course of one summer she meets and falls in love with the charming Bernard. The years of heartache and loneliness are finally behind her.

She quickly moves into his beautiful home on the wind battered cliffs of Hastings. But, after a while, she begins to wonder if Bernard is all he seems.

He’s barely in touch with his children and with stifling reminders of his wife everywhere Sara looks, the walls begin to close in.

Then comes Bernard’s confession and Sara’s newfound happiness starts to crumble around her . . .

MY THOUGHTS: Relationships are tricky things at the best of times. But second time around with adult children involved seems to prove more challenging than most. Particularly in this case where parent and children are concealing a secret that is not only destroying their relationship, but could have dire consequences for those involved if it is revealed.

Hilary Boyd has written wonderful characters. Sara and Bernard couldn’t be more different. Sara, a widow, is a warm and relaxed person, and has a close relationship with both her daughters. Bernard, a widower, is basically estranged from his adult twin children, and is uncomfortable even talking about them.

I really loved Sara’s relationship with her deceased husband’s mother. Margaret is delightful.

I loved the way this couple met; it was funny and entertaining, but also touching, and I enjoyed the spark that sprung up between them, but then . . . for a long time, nothing.

Hilary Boyd writes with heart and realism, and I enjoyed experiencing the growth and dynamics of this relationship from both Sara’s and Bernard’s perspective. It’s a very rocky road as both try to do their best for one another and their own children.

This is a quiet book which kept me interested with the moral and ethical dilemmas that were posed. The Hidden Truth is a story of love and hope, actions and consequences, and living your life to the fullest. I must admit I finished it with a bit of a hitch in my breath.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheHiddenTruth #NetGalley

I: @hilaryboyd3837 @michaeljbooks

T: @hilaryboyd @MichaelJBooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Boyd was born and spent the first six months of her life in Prestatyn, North Wales, where her father, an army major, was stationed after the war. She was later educated in London, then at the boarding school Roedean. She trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and subsequently as a marriage guidance counsellor with Relate before reading English Literature at London University in her late 30s.

After college, Boyd became a health journalist, writing about depression, step-parenting and pregnancy. She began writing fiction as a hobby whilst raising three children and working at various day jobs including running a cancer charity, Survive Cancer, working for an engineering company, and an online vitamin site.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Hidden Truth by Hilary Boyd 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

The Last House on the Cliff by Anne Wyn Clark

EXCERPT: The first time I ever laid eyes on a dead person, I was six years old. And then it was never meant to happen…..

ABOUT ‘THE LAST HOUSE ON THE CLIFF’: On the death of her aunt Gwyn, Lowri returns once more to Gwyn’s home on the remote island of Anglesey, Wales, with young daughter Ruby in tow. Lowri hadn’t seen her aunt in years, but this beautiful island offers a fresh start.

Yet right away, strange things begin to happen. Ruby insists an old woman is visiting her when no one else is watching, and a tattered old doll keeps being left for Ruby to find.

Then Ruby goes missing. Desperately seeking answers no one seems to have, Lowri looks to her dark family past for clues. But the secrets she uncovers suggest that Ruby is not the only one in danger, and time is running out – for both of them…

MY THOUGHTS: I simply raced through the first half of The Last House on the Cliff, soaking up the atmosphere, the location, the quirky characters. Unfortunately in the second half, while the wheels may not completely fall off, they definitely come loose and the whole storyline teeters precariously.

While Wynn Clark takes her time creating all the wonderful atmosphere in the beginning, once we get to the second half of the story where Ruby is missing, it all becomes rather disjointed and frustrating.

I loved how she describes the house . . . (view spoiler) run down and decaying, damp, dark . . . it sent shivers down my spine!

Nina – just what was the point of sending Nina back home? She was a great forthright character. Yes, her dog is necessary to the plot, but surely Nina could have stayed too.

I don’t believe that the chapters titled ‘The Girl’s Story’ really added anything, in fact they gave away vital clues, and I became rather frustrated with them. In hindsight, I should have just skipped them.

I don’t think the Carys storyline was developed to it’s full potential. This could have been a far more powerful part of the story than it was.

The ending was what really killed this for me. It was totally ridiculous and implausible. Was the author trying to include too many elements (most of them towards the end) and in doing so over-complicated things? I believe so.

What started out as a solid +4⭐ read, deteriorated into a jumbled and unfulfilling denouement.

⭐⭐.5

I: #annewynclark @avonbooksuk

T: @EAClarkAuthor @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mentalhealth #murdermystery #mystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Anne Wyn Clark lives in the Midlands with her husband and son, plus a rather temperamental cat, a rabbit and a chinchilla. She has three (now grown-up) children and five grandchildren. She is particularly partial to Italian food, decent red wine (or any coloured wine come to that…) and cake – and has been known to over-indulge in each on occasions. She has a penchant for visiting old graveyards and speculating on the demise of those entombed beneath. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Last House on the Cliff by Anne Wyn Clark 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

Look Both Ways by Linwood Barclay

EXCERPT: Speaking neither to Katie nor Archie, Sandra said, ‘Gracie, open.’

From somewhere under the car, maybe the vents at the base of the windshield – came a voice. Feminine, but not overly so. Personable, but at the same time not overly familiar.

‘Good morning, Sandra. It would be my pleasure.’

‘I think she sounds hot,’ Archie whispered to his sister.

Katie whispered back, ‘She might be the best you ever get.’

The door on the passenger side – both sides, actually, were passenger sides – popped out an inch, then slid back on a track to allow access. There were two seats in the front and two in the back. A gleaming black touchscreen dash ran across the bottom of the windshield.

There was no steering wheel.

ABOUT ‘LOOK BOTH WAYS’: The media have descended on Garrett Island, a small, isolated community that is the setting of a visionary experiment. All the residents’ cars were sent to the mainland and for the past month the islanders have been “driving” the Arrival, a revolutionary autonomous vehicle. With a simple voice command, an Arrival will take you wherever you want to go and, because the fleet is networked and aware of one another, car travel is now 100% safe. The future, it seems, has arrived.

As the excitement reaches a fever pitch, Sandra Montrose – islander, single mom, and public relations executive – prepares for Arrival Inc.’s flashy press event. Sandra is more than ready for this new world. Her husband died after falling asleep at the wheel and she’s relieved that her two teens, Archie and Katie, will never need driver’s licenses.

But as the celebratory day gets underway, disaster strikes. A visiting journalist has vanished, possibly murdered. Before long, the Arrivals run amok, no longer taking orders from their passengers. They’re starting to organize. They’re beginning to hunt. And they seem hell-bent on killing any human they encounter.

Is this all just a tragic accident, a technological malfunction with deadly consequences? Or were the vehicles programmed to act this way in a cruel act of corporate sabotage? Or could it be that the Arrivals have a mind of their own?

MY THOUGHTS: Christine on steroids!

Linwood Barclay has taken every fear I had about self-driving cars and magnified them. I love it! But it’s safe to say that I will be firmly hanging on to my traditional gas-guzzling car, thank you very much.

The choice of setting was brilliant – an Island accessible only by air and ferry, but the cars have them covered! Barclay’s thought processes are scary. Not a man I would like to get on the wrong side of!

Yes, these cars are intelligent. And devious. And NASTY. Very, very nasty. They’re also very quiet. Able to sneak up on you.

But it’s not only the cars who are nasty. There are some very nasty characters. Not saying who . . . that you can discover for yourself. There are also some lovely characters. Sandra for one. A widow with two teenage children whom she loves more than anything. Bruce, the man across the road, who Archie is convinced is a serial killer, is a surprisingly wonderful character. As is Katie, Sandra’s daughter.

Look Both Ways is fast-paced with plenty of action. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s also possible . . .

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#LookBothWays #NetGalley

I: @linwoodbarclay @harlequinaus

T: @linwood_barclay @HarlequinAus

#contemporaryfiction #crime #horror #mystery #smalltownfiction #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: After spending his formative years helping run a cottage resort and trailer park after his father died when he was 16, Barclay got his first newspaper job at the Peterborough Examiner, a small Ontario daily. In 1981, he joined the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper.
He held such positions as assistant city editor, chief copy editor, news editor, and Life section editor, before becoming the paper’s humour columnist in 1993. He was one of the paper’s most popular columnists before retiring from the position in 2008 to work exclusively on books.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Look Both Ways by Linwood Barclay 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

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

EXCERPT: The night it all ended, Vivian was alone.

That was fine with her. She preferred it. It was something she’d discovered, working the night shift in this place in the middle of nowhere: being with people was easy, but being alone was hard. Especially being alone in the dark. The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s own thoughts – that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready, more prepared.

Still, she pulled into the parking lot of the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York, and paused, feeling the familiar beat of fear. She sat in her beat-up Cavalier, the key in the ignition, the heat and the radio on, her coat huddled around her shoulders. She looked at the glowing blue and yellow sign, the two stories of rooms in two long stripes in the mshape of an L, and thought I don’t want to go in there. But I will. She was ready. But she was still afraid. It was 10:59 p.m.

She felt like crying. She felt like screaming. She felt sick.

I don’t want to go in there.

But I will. Because I always do.

Outside, two drops of half frozen rain hit the windshield. A truck droned by on the road in the rearview mirror. The clock ticked over to eleven o’clock, and the news came on the radio. Another minute and she’d be late, but she didn’t care. No one would fire her. No one cared if she came to work. The Sun Down had few customers, none of whom would notice if the night girl was late. It was often so quiet that an observer would think that nothing ever happened here.

Viv Delaney knew better.

The Sun Down only looked empty. But it wasn’t.

ABOUT ‘THE SUN DOWN MOTEL’: The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

MY THOUGHTS: Things go bump in the night. Locked doors open. There’s a constant smell of cigarette smoke. And voices when no one is there . . . ‘Help me.’ And ‘Run’

The Sun Down Motel is a taut and twisty blend of mystery and ghost story. Set over two timelines: 1982 when Viv Delaney works the night reception at the Sun Down Motel; and 2017 when her niece, Carly Kirk, unable to let go the mystery of her missing aunt, works the same job, the story is compelling from the very first sentence.

I enjoyed Viv’s story a little more than Carly’s. It’s somehow a little creepier to not have mobile phones and technology at hand. Not that they work at the Sun Down anyway. It’s a bit of a dead spot – excuse the pun. Viv is the bad girl, the one compared unfavorably to her ‘good’ sister. Her mother asked her, before she left home, ‘What would you do if you ever got into real trouble?’ She’s about to find out.

While I loved Carly’s tenacity and determination to find out what happened to her aunt, it was Viv’s character that enthralled me. She was determined to get justice for the dead girls, and there are a number of them, far too many for a town the size of Fell. She put on her Nancy Drew persona and followed the clues, listened to the ghosts.

There are a number of twists throughout the book in both timelines, none of which I saw coming. St. James has written a subtlely creepy, unsettling mystery that kept me guessing and enthralled from beginning to end.

I listened to the audiobook of The Sun Down Motel superbly narrated by Brittany Presley and Kirsten Potter.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheSunDownMotel

I: @simonestjames @penguinaudio

T: @simone_stjames @PRHAudio

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. She is addicted to sushi, rainy days, coffee, and My Favorite Murder.

The Blackhouse by Carole Johnstone

EXCERPT: I remember, even before I fumble for the bedside lamp switch. I’m in a clifftop Blackhouse on the edge of the world. And the sound – the sound that has raised the hairs on my skin and scalp; that has set my heart beating so hard I can feel its pulse in my fingers and toes – is not nurses on night rounds or the swish of fire doors. It is here.

I hear it again close to the window. Quick, light taps against the glass. And then muffled, louder taps getting closer. I listen to their progress along the wall towards the fireplace, and I draw my knees up against my chest. I think of the narrow-paved path that circles the cottage. Could it be sheep? But those taps don’t sound like hooves. They sound like steps. Light and fast. As though someone is on tiptoe.

I almost scream when something scrapes too loud, too close, against the kitchen wall. It pauses, and I spin round in the bed, ears rushing with white noise as I strain to listen. When it starts up again – a scratching like something pressed against and dragged along the stone outside – I lurch out of bed, my hand over my mouth. The door to the mudroom is open, and I nearly scream again when they reach the door, start tapping on the small inset window. Another longer scrape of stone, and then the bathroom window. I think of bócain and thin places. I think of dead crows with empty oval eye sockets. I think of someone watching from the dark. Worst of all, I think of Robert Reid.

ABOUT ‘THE BLACKHOUSE’: Maggie Mackay has been haunted her entire life. No matter what she does, she can’t shake the sense that something is wrong with her. And maybe something is…

When she was five years old, without proof, Maggie announced that someone in the remote village of Blairmore in the Outer Hebrides had murdered a local man, sparking a media storm.

Now, Maggie is determined to discover what really happened and what the villagers are hiding. But everyone has secrets, and some are deadly. As she gets closer to the horrifying truth, Maggie’s own life is in danger…

MY THOUGHTS: The remote Hebridean Island of Kilmeray is like a magnet to Maggie Mackay. Her mother had taken her there as a five-year-old child, and she announced that she was Andrew Macneil and she had been murdered there.

After her mother’s death and her own psychotic episode, Maggie returns, determined to uncover the truth, sure that is the key to quitening her own restless spirit.

But on an island like Kilmeray, and in an insular village like Blairmore, the locals all live and work together. That’s how they survive. So it’s not unexpected that they would stand together against someone coming in and asking questions, making accusations.

Carole Johnstone is great at creating atmosphere. Her chosen location of a small wind and storm swept island that is more often than not cut off from the rest of the world by the weather is ideal for this storyline. But the seas are not all that is menacing. There are the villagers, who seem to be playing a game of cat and mouse with Maggie. One minute they are turning their backs on her, warning her off; the next tempting her with some tidbit of information. Maggie’s journey to uncover what they are hiding is a tense and twisty one; the final reveal unexpected and satisfying.

There is a sprinkling of Norse mythology, and romance; a hint of the supernatural. This is a story about grief and revenge; a story of mental illness and justice; a story of one woman trying to find her own peace.

On reflection, I wish I had listened to the audiobook of The Blackhouse. It could only have added to the atmosphere and my enjoyment.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#theblackhouse #NetGalley

I: @carole_l_johnstone @harpercollins

T: @C_L_Johnstone @HarperCollins

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mentalhealth #mystery #scottishnoir #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Carole Johnstone is from Lanarkshire, Scotland though she spent much of her life in north Essex. Award winning short story writer and lover of islands and wine. She now writes full-time and lives on the Scottish coast in Argyll & Bute.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins, Harper Fiction via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Blackhouse by Carole Johnstone 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

The New House by Tess Stimson

EXCERPT: The night of the charity gala, that night when everyone met for the first time, a tragic series of events was set in motion. Until then, you just had six ordinary people linked only by a simple desire to sell their houses.

But something changed for everyone that night. Our lives got tangled together. We became part of each other’s stories – with disastrous consequences.

A small quirk of fate, and everything could have turned out differently. Sometimes all it takes is for the wrong person to cross your path at the wrong time.

I’m not to blame for what happened that autumn. It took a perfect storm of circumstances; every single person involved in the drama played their part.

What if the estate agent had got stuck in traffic on the day of the viewing and someone else had got their bid in first?

What if the mortgage broker hadn’t listened to her voicemail?

I can see you all sitting there smugly telling yourselves you’d never have taken the law into your own hands, no matter what the provocation. You’re not capable of killing someone in cold blood, right?

Self-defense maybe. Or to protect your family.

But never murder.

ABOUT ‘THE NEW HOUSE’: Three couples. Three houses. One home to die for…

Stacey and Felix are the glamorous owners of the stylish, modern Glass House, with its pool and floor-to-ceiling windows. Now they’re downsizing, but Stacey can’t sell to just anyone. She needs the right buyer, who will keep her secrets.

Millie and Tom have always imagined living in the Glass House. Now it’s for sale. With property prices booming, if they can sell quickly, it could be theirs. But are the house and its charming owners all they seem?

Harper and Kyle are moving up in the world. They need a new house, in the right school district, to give their children the start in life they never had. Millie and Tom’s is perfect. It’ll take every penny they have, and more, but it’ll be worth it. Won’t it?

When one of the sales falls through, how far will someone go to get everything they’ve always wanted?

MY THOUGHTS: ‘These violent delights have violent ends, and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume.’ – Shakespeare

OMG Tess Stimson! A meteor shower of stars! Five just doesn’t cut it.

A big fat ‘YES!’ to all the hype and the publicity claims. I was gripped and consumed by this book. It’s crazy, compelling, addictive, mindblowing, twisty and more.

The New House is a book best gone into cold. Stock up on your favourite drinks and snacks, lock the door, turn off your phone, pick up your copy of The New House by Tess Stimson and prepare for a wild rollercoaster ride. You won’t regret it.

Tess Stimson’s mind scares me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheNewHouse #NetGalley #TessStimsonAuthor

I: @tessstimson @avonbooksuk

T: @tessjstimson @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: I was born in Surrey, in the south of England, and read English at Oxford University.

​Upon graduating I joined ITN as a news producer.
I reported and produced regional and world stories, travelling to hotspots and war-zones all over the
globe, before leaving bullets behind to become
a full-time writer.

​Since then, I’ve written more than a dozen novels, numerous short stories, and two non-fiction books, which have been published internationally and translated into more than twenty languages.

​In recent years, I’ve moved away from writing women’s fiction and towards darker psychological thrillers,
which seem to suit my personality better – make
of that what you will.

​As well as writing fiction I continue to work as
a journalist, and also teach reporting for media and creative writing at a university in the North-Eastern US.

​I live in Vermont with my husband, and am visited intermittently by my three grown-up children whenever they need their laundry done.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The New House by Tess Stimson 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

The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland

EXCERPT: Just before seven he sat at his desk. The paperwork in his in-tray beckoned, but his thoughts kept flitting back to the funeral and the dead woman. He opened his drawer and slid out the envelope of photographs he’d taken of her. The scientifics from Inverell had taken their own photos at the morgue – two full rolls of black and white – and hadn’t even mentioned the circle on her temple or the rest of it. Nor had Angus Hawley, the clerk of court, who ashed his cigar and coughed dismissively at Goodenough’s suggestion.

Angus doubled as the sector’s coroner and worked out of a large converted junk room crammed with boxes of files, which he referred to grandly as his chambers, out the back of Moorabool Petty Sessions Court. Angus’s findings had been informed by the scientific’s notes and photos, and had found nothing that would challenge Dr Fischman’s call of suicide.

Goodenough took out his close-up of the small circular abrasion on Christine’s left temple and studied it through his magnifying glass. How come no one else but him thought the mark looked like he muzzle of a rifle had been pressed against Christine’s temple?

ABOUT ‘THE CARNIVAL IS OVER’: 1971—Hal is seventeen, with dreams of escaping from Moorabool to a life in the city. But right now he’s on a good behaviour bond and stuck in a job he hates, paying off the car he ‘borrowed’ and crashed. Hal’s packing-room job makes him a target for workplace bullies and the friendship of the older, more worldly Christine is all that makes each day bearable. So when she doesn’t turn up for work, he’s on the alert.

So is Sergeant Mick Goodenough. But he already knows what’s happened to Christine: the same thing that happened to the newly elected deputy mayor. When another gruesome ‘accident’ occurs in Moorabool, Goodenough suspects there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes at the abattoir.

Mick and Hal are both determined to dig up the truth. Before long each of them is going to find himself in mortal danger and running for his life.

MY THOUGHTS: I was excited to see a new book from Greg Woodland after having loved The Night Whistler. And although The Carnival is Over doesn’t ooze the same atmosphere, and the palpable air of menace is missing, it’s still a good solid read with a lot of action and intrigue.

Five years on from The Night Whistler, Mick’s been promoted to sergeant and now calls the shots. He’s still not what you might call lucky in love, but what he has works for him – sort of.

Hal’s been in a bit of trouble and is paying the price, and Allie has her eyes set firmly on a better future, one that probably won’t include Hal.

Again, there are multiple layers to this mystery – corruption, greed, violence, workplace sexual and racial harassment (completely normal in the early ’70s), and suspicious deaths.

Somehow Woodland’s writing doesn’t seem quite as vivid as it did in the first book. I didn’t get as good a sense of place this time around, and while I was looking forward to going back and visiting these friends, something had changed. Me? Them? I don’t know. Or maybe five years is just too long between visits. There’s obviously been a fair bit of water flowed under the bridge in that time, and we’ve missed out on most of it.

But having said that, The Carnival is Over is a cracking good read. Small town politics, resentments and rivalries, liaisons and affairs, all form the backdrop for a story of corruption and greed set in a small, outback New South Wales town. Mick keeps hitting brick walls as he tries to investigate two deaths only he seems to find suspicious, and he is unsure who he can trust. There are car chases and hostage situations, so plenty of tense action and thrills.

The Carnival is Over can easily be read as a stand-alone.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheCarnivalisOver #NetGalley

I: @gregwoodlandauthor @text_publishing

T: #GregWoodlandAuthor @text_publishing

#australiancrimefiction #crime #detectivefiction #historicalfiction #mystery #smalltownfiction #thriller

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Greg Woodland is an author, screenwriter and former film director. Since 2000 he’s worked as a freelance script developer and script editor and taught screenwriting at Sydney film schools and universities.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland 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

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache #11) by Louise Penny

EXCERPT: Some glint inside the bramble caught his eye.

Something was in there. Something that hadn’t grown, but had been placed there. Other hands had been here before him.

Laurent Lepage, his pursuers forgotten, knelt closer and, bringing both hands up, he grasped the vines and yanked them apart. The creepers clung to each other, bound together. Years, decades, eons worth of growth. And concealment.

Laurent ripped, and ripped, and tore. Until a shaft of sunlight penetrated the overgrowth, the undergrowth, and he saw what was in there. What had been hiding in the there longer than Laurent had been alive.

His eyes widened.

‘Wow.’

ABOUT ‘THE NATURE OF THE BEAST’: Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, it is back.

MY THOUGHTS: Louise Penny has created a remarkable cast of characters in her Chief Inspector Gamache series, and plots to match. The Nature of the Beast, #11 in this series is no exception. The plot is quietly exciting, the mystery puzzling, the denouement superb.

This is no simple mystery. It is multi-layered and provides proof that no matter how long we have known the residents of Three Pines, no matter how well we think we know them, Louise Penny is always able to reveal some facet of their natures, some secret, that will stun and surprise us.

I wondered what would become of Gamache now that he is officially ‘retired’. But he finds enough to do to keep himself busy, and his mind is certainly as sharp as ever.

There is something about the rythym of Penny’s writing that enchants me and draws me in. Any book of hers that I pick up, I find difficult to put down. The Nature of the Beast is no exception.

Were there more references than usual to food in this volume? It certainly felt like it. I would like to thank the author for introducing me to the delights of the bacon, apple, brie and maple syrup sandwich served in toasted sourdough.
Perhaps, Ms Penny, we could have a Three Pines Cookbook?

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheNatureoftheBeast

I: @louisepennyauthor @hodderbooks

T: #LouisePennyAuthor @HodderFiction

THE AUTHOR: Louise Penny CM OQ is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of francophone Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Wikipedia)

This was an audiobook I listened to purely for pleasure as I love this series. ❤📚

In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

Middle of Hickory Lane

In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

In the Middle of Hickory Lane
by 

Heather Webber (Goodreads Author)

Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*‘s review

Jul 31, 2022  ·  edit

it was amazing

bookshelves: 20222022-netgalley-challenge5-starcontemporary-fictionfamily-dramamysteryromance

EXCERPT: In the middle of Hickory Lane grew a neighbourhood garden, a circular patch of vibrant land that fit snugly into the footprint of the wide dead-end street, a cul-de-sac. The landscaped island rose from the surrounding asphalt road, lush and verdant, beckoning for a closer look, a long stay. It was impossible for me not to notice, however, that among its gravel pathways, trees, shrubs, planter beds, trellises and flower meadow, a secret had once been planted as well. One that was slowly being exposed with each thrust of a shovel into rich soil as a newly discovered grave was unearthed.

ABOUT ‘IN THE MIDDLE OF HICKORY LANE’: Emme Wynn has wanted nothing more her whole life than to feel like part of a family. Having grown up on the run with her con artist mother, she’s been shuffled from town to town, drawn into bad situations, and has learned some unsavory habits that she’s tried hard to overcome. When her estranged grandmother tracks her down out of the blue and extends a job offer—helping to run her booth at an open-air marketplace in small-town Sweetgrass, Alabama—Emme is hopeful that she’ll finally be able to plant the roots she’s always dreamed of. But some habits are hard to break, and she risks her newfound happiness by keeping one big truth to herself.

Cora Bee Hazelton has her hands full with volunteering, gardening, her job as a color consultant and designer, and just about anything she can do to keep her mind off her painful past, a past that has resulted in her holding most everyone at arm’s length. The last thing she wants is to form close relationships only to have her heart broken yet again. But when she’s injured, she has no choice other than to let people into her life and soon realizes it’s going to be impossible to keep her heart safe—or her secrets hidden.

MY THOUGHTS: My bags are packed – I’m moving to Sweetgrass, Alabama. More precisely to Hickory Lane. I can’t imagine a more delightful neighbourhood, a more wonderful bunch of neighbours than I would have here.

Glory is the matriarch of the family. A wonderfully wise woman who sees far more than she says, she has finally succeeded in tracing her estranged granddaughter and bringing her back to the family fold.

But Emme has a secret, one that weighs heavily on her, and as much as she has always wanted a home, a family, she isn’t at all sure that she can stay. She also has a peculiar talent, one that she puts down to the way she was raised – she can always tell when someone is lying.

Cora Bee is Emme’s cousin. She also has a secret, a time of her life that she is not proud of but that she can’t let go. She uses it as a barrier, a way of keeping others from getting to close. She also has a particular gift, that of seeing people’s colours.

As Glory’s life comes to an end, all she wants is to see her granddaughters happy and settled, and she will move heaven and earth to do it.

What can I say about the characters in this book? They are simply wonderful and from the moment I first started reading, I just wanted to move in with them and be a part of this beautiful story. I couldn’t help but love them, particularly Emme who has had such a hard life, and Glory who is so loving and giving. Even Dorothy, who is falling prey to dementia is a wonderful character, and perhaps some of the strange things she comes out with have more meaning than her family realises!

This is a lovely heartwarming story, a magical story, that enchanted and engaged me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#IntheMiddleofHickoryLane #NetGalley

I: @booksbyheather @forgereads

T: @BooksbyHeather @ForgeReads

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Heather Webber, aka Heather Blake, is the author of more than twenty-five novels. She loves to read, drink too much coffee and tea, birdwatch, crochet, and bake. She currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, and is hard at work on her next book.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Macmillan – Tor/Forge, Forge Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber 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