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. ❤📚

The Murder Book (Tom Thorne #18) by Mark Billingham

EXCERPT: One post-mortem was more than enough for most people and Thorne had been present at a good many more than that. Hundreds, probably. Though he had become . . . accustomed to the unique sights and smells and the terrible whine of the bone-saw, he still put the Vicks and the earplugs to good use every time, and, unlike the heavily tattooed man sitting opposite him, he was certainly unable to face a full English breakfast immediately afterwards.

Full English option three, to be precise, with two eggs, double sausage and extra bubble and squeak.

The man was an animal.

Phil Hendricks was not quite as delicate with a knife and fork as he was with dissecting scissors and rib-shears, so just watching his friend tucking in was making Thorne feel gippier than he had while watching him work on Richard Sumner’s body twenty minutes earlier. He groaned to make his feelings clear.

The pathologist lifted a fork dripping with baked beans and jabbed it towards the single piece of toast on Thorne’s plate.

‘Pussy,’ he said.

‘Pig,’ Thorne said.

ABOUT ‘THE MURDER BOOK’: Tom Thorne finally has it all.

In Nicola Tanner and Phil Hendricks, Thorne has good friends by his side. His love life is newly reformed by a promising relationship and he is happy in the job he has devoted his life to.

As he sets off hunting the woman responsible for a series of grisly murders, Thorne has no way of knowing that he will be plunged into a nightmare from which he may never wake. A nightmare that has a name. Thorne’s past threatens to catch up with him and a ruinous secret is about to be revealed. If he wants to save himself and his friends, he will have to do the unthinkable.

Tom Thorne finally has a lot to lose.

MY THOUGHTS: WARNING – A library book is harmed in this story.

I have read this series from the beginning, and I am yet to be disappointed. Billingham is able to combine humour, suspense, and humanity in his writing and I am always eagerly awaiting the next installment in this series. He imbues his characters with a rich sense of realism that makes me feel like I am greeting old friends the moment I open the cover.

DI Tom Thorne is at the centre of the stage ably assisted by DI Nicola Tanner and pathologist Phil Hendricks. These three have quite a history together and share a dark secret that would, at best, finish their careers if it were ever revealed, and, at worst, see them doing jail time.

All three seem to be more settled in their personal lives at the outset of The Murder Book and, although Nicola still misses her partner Susan, she finds the impetus and the means to move on with her life during this case.

This case – it’s a doozy. The plot is twisty and unpredictable. What starts out as a simple (probably not the right word, but in comparison with what is to come, it works) murder case soon morphs into something far more complex that threatens the personal and professional lives of the three colleagues.

Talk about tense and suspenseful! Parts gave me chills. It’s white-knuckled, edge-of-the-seat reading.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheMuderBook #NetGalley

I: #markbillingham @groveatlantic

T: @MarkBillingham @groveatlantic

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

THE AUTHOR: Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. Having worked for some years as an actor and more recently as a TV writer and stand-up comedian his first crime novel was published in 2001. Mark lives in North London with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Murder Book by Mark Billingham 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 will also be published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

The Blackhouse by Carole Johnstone is what I am currently reading. This author really knows how to create an atmosphere!

I am listening to The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James, an author I have been wanting to read for some time, but I am never approved for her ARCs on Netgalley. It’s definitely another atmospheric and suspenseful read.

I have only managed to complete two of my seven scheduled reads for the week, so I am carrying them over into this week where I only have one other read for review scheduled. It is Solace and Other Stories by M. Syaipul Nasrullah. Thank you to the author for kindly providing me with a copy for review.

As he stared at the corpse’s face, he realized an endless dark cavity beneath the dead skin. There’s no one there. Even if he shouted with all his might, it was not the echo that would greet him but the silence that engulfed his voice.

– SOLACE

In “Good Friends,” a little girl collects dolls her family can’t afford from the neighbor’s trash bin. But who is the ghostly figure sharing them with her? A mysterious married woman reaches out to an ojek driver in “Confide,” and a young man’s attempt to kill himself goes awry in “Zombie.” In “The Crains” a new wife discovers her in-laws’ dangerous forays into black magic, and “Solace” follows a young man with a terrifying secret in his bedroom… These are just some of the spine-tingling stories of Solace and Other Stories, a surreal collection sure to keep you up at night! 

I have received five new Netgalley ARCs this week. They are: Mothered by Zoje Stage. I don’t know about you, but I find that cover chilling! The possibilities . . .

This is Us by Helen McGinn

The Santa Killer by Ross Greenwood (my nod to Christmas)

A Fearsome Moonlight Black by David Putnam

A Trace to Poison by Colleen Cambridge

My post is short and sweet today as I have to prepare some entrees for a friend’s birthday this afternoon.

It’s been another busy week workwise, but I am trying not to slip back into my old work habits and made sure to take some time for myself. I went swimming on Tuesday afternoon. Hilarious! My spirit was willing but my muscle memory was not cooperating. Floundering might be a more apt description of what I actually did. Thursday morning I went to aquarobics with my cousin which was not only a great workout but lots of fun. I have convinced another friend to come with us this coming week.

Have a wonderful week everyone, and happy reading. ❤📚

Dead Real (Calladine & Bayliss #12) by Helen H. Durrant

EXCERPT: Tuesday – Over the years the alleyway that ran between two of the tower blocks had become a dumping ground for rubbish. It was littered with old mattresses, fridges, anything the tenants didn’t want and couldn’t afford to have disposed of properly.

Lisa Woodley, single mum of two and new to the area, lived in a ground floor flat in Heron House, one of the pair of towers. A week ago she’d complained about the smell. The council promised to send a team around to shift everything within a couple of days. All very well, but the days were passing by, the weather was warm and the smell got no better.

The Hobfield Estate was not an easy place to live in. After dark the kids were noisy. They let off fireworks late into the night and screamed obscenities at everyone who walked past. They kept the children awake and made Lisa flinch. The smell was the final straw. She’d had enough.

Lisa planned to visit the council offices in Leesdon that afternoon, give them a piece of her mind. She was all fired up and ready to take them on when Bobbin’, her cat, came home with a human foot in his mouth. The animal dropped it on the kitchen floor, looked up at Lisa and went to his basket where he began to lick his paws.

ABOUT ‘DEAD REAL’: One of the Hobfield estate’s newest tenants is horrified when her cat returns home with a human foot in its mouth.

The foot belongs to 16-year-old Noah Crosby, whose decomposing remains are found in a rubbish-strewn alleyway. He was wearing an expensive gold watch, high-end trainers and had a top-of-the-range mobile phone on him when he died. The motive clearly isn’t robbery.

But how could a young lad from the wrong side of the tracks afford such expensive gear?

The post-mortem reveals that the letter X has been carved into Noah’s skin. The signature of a killer known as the Shadow, who plagued the estate more than twenty years before. A killer who was never caught.

Could the Shadow be back at large?

Detective Tom Calladine and his partner DS Ruth Bayliss are finding it difficult to make headway. People are scared. No one will talk.

At the same time, Tom’s new girlfriend’s shop is targeted — and it’s clear she’s not telling him the whole truth about the attack. Just what is Kitty hiding? And when an old flame returns to Leesdon, Tom senses trouble ahead . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I never thought the day would come when I abandoned a Helen H. Durrant book. I have loved this series with it averaging 4⭐ in my ratings. I was looking forward to more adventures with Calladine and Bayliss. So what went wrong?

Bad decisions on the part of the police investigating the crimes. There are various threads to this story including current murders, historic murders and an abundance of top end trainers,handbags and watches that have obviously been stolen from somewhere, but don’t seem to have been reported stolen. There was a clear course of action they should have taken and they just didn’t.

At 46% I remarked, ‘in this particular book Calladine is being an absolute walkover!’ What I was thinking was another word altogether.

At 53% I felt like throwing my Kindle across the room, but instead said ‘enough’ and closed the cover.

I am aware that I am very much on my own with my thoughts on Dead Real, #12 in the Calladine and Bayliss series, so please do check out the many more favourable reviews.

Will I read more in this series. Right now, I don’t think so. But by the time the next book is ready for publication I will probably be remembering only the fun I previously had with these books.

#DEADREAL #Netgalley

I: @hhdurrant_author @joffebooks

T: @JoffeBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Helen H. Durrant is a British author who sets her novels in the area she has lived for many years, the towns and villages that sit in the shelter of the Pennine hills. The area offers an interesting mix of the industrial and the countryside and makes for a great setting for a crime novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Joffe Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dead Real by Helen H. Durrant 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

A Room Full of Killers (DCI Matilda Darke #3) by Michael Wood

EXCERPT: I threw the blanket off me and stood up to turn on the living room light. I can’t remember what I was saying to Max but as soon as the room lit up I could see why he was behaving so oddly.

There was a leak coming through the light fitting in the middle of the room. It didn’t make sense. The bathroom was above the kitchen, not the living room. My eyes adjusted. Shit! It wasn’t water pooling on the coffee table. It wasn’t water dripping and splashing all over the cream carpet. It was blood.

ABOUT ‘A ROOM FULL OF KILLERS’: Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

MY THOUGHTS: A Room Full of Killers is an incredibly tense read. It is dark, fast-paced and, dare I say it, an exhilarating read. I felt like I had run a marathon when I finished.

DCI Matilda Darke is a strong character, but I’m glad she doesn’t work for me, even though she gets results. When Matilda gets her sights on a course of action, there’s little that will deflect her. Certainly not anything like a direct order from her boss ACC Val Masterton. This blatant disregard lands Matilda in hot water more often than not.

I enjoyed (that’s probably not the right word!) the individual stories of the inmates of Starling House, which were interwoven into the story of the investigation into the murder of the newest inmate. Only, in our PC society, we’re probably not allowed to call him that. He would probably be a ‘resident’. Most of the stories are quite chilling. The occasional one, sad. I wondered how many of these boys actually had a teddy bear hidden amongst their possessions that they cuddled up with at night.

The characters in this book are complex – not just Matilda’s team, but also the staff at Sterling House. I could understand Rory’s obsession with finding out why children kill – are they born evil, or is it circumstance? It is something I have often wondered.

The plot is also complex and I had absolutely no idea, until Matilda’s team began to close in on the killer, who it could possibly be.

The only books I haven’t yet read in this series are the two novellas, 0.5 The Fallen, and 4.5 Victim of Innocence. I’ll be reading both as soon as I can.

A Room Full of Killers may easily be read as a stand-alone.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#ARoomFullofKillers @onemorechapter

T: @MichaelHWood @OneMoreChapter

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

THE AUTHOR: Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Good afternoon from a cold, windy, grey New Zealand. We have more rain and storms on the way. Yay!!!!

Currently I am reading After the Flood by Dave Warner, a wonderful piece of Australian crime fiction.

I am also reading The Murder Book, #18 in the Tom Thorne series by Mark Billingham.

And listening to The Cabin in the Woods written by Sarah Alderson and narrated by Stephanie Cannon

This week, in addition to The Murder Book, and After the Flood, I still have the following books to read for review:

In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

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.

Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott

A rash of poison pen letters has enveloped the sleepy English village of Walmsley Parva in cloud of suspicion and paranoia. But when rampant aspersions culminate in murder, enquiry agents Beryl Helliwell and Edwina Davenport must stamp out the evil-minded epistles . . .

What began for two dear if very different friends–an American adventuress and a prim and proper Brit–as a creative response to the lean times following the Great War has evolved into a respectable private enquiry business. So much so that Constable Gibbs calls upon Beryl and Edwina to solve a curious campaign of character assassination.

A series of anonymous accusations sent via post have set friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor. In her new position as magistrate, Edwina has already had to settle one dispute that led to fisticuffs. Even Beryl has received a poison pen letter, and while she finds its message preposterous and laughable, others are taking the missives to heart. Their headstrong housekeeper Beddoes is ready to resign and one villager has attempted to take her own life.

The disruption of the peace goes far beyond malicious mischief when another villager is murdered. Now it’s up to the intrepid sleuths to read between the lines and narrow down the suspects to identify the lethal letter writer and ensure that justice is delivered . . . 

The Other Girlfriend by Alex Stone

She loves him…

Lizzie Green once loved Tom Murphy with a passion that bordered on obsession. All she wanted was his love to be returned. Then one night something terrible happened and Tom left Lizzie broken hearted. She swore she would never let him hurt her again….

She loves him not.

Now, ten years later, Tom turns up on Lizzie’s doorstep still as charming as ever. Lizzie knows he still has the power to break her heart and destroy her life again. But Lizzie can’t say no to him….

Can she?

And Mother of all Secrets by Kathleen M. Willett

Her freedom, her sanity, her life. How much will a young mother sacrifice to protect her secrets?

Sleep deprived and overwhelmed, first-time mom Jenn is struggling to adapt to her new role. Frustrated with her loving but preoccupied husband and still grieving the death of her own mother, she feels isolated and depressed. It’s only when she joins a new-moms’ group that she starts to think she’s finally getting back on track.

Until Isabel, the group’s leader, suddenly disappears.

Now Jenn’s baby isn’t the only reason she can’t sleep. Consumed with worry over Isabel, Jenn is teetering on the edge of obsession. Concern turns to paranoia when Jenn finds clues that force her to look at herself, her marriage, and the women in her support group, who have more in common than Jenn realized. Much more.

Saving Isabel means unearthing secrets that were supposed to stay buried forever, and Jenn has to decide what she’s willing to risk to help a woman she barely knows. With each revelation, she gets closer to a slow-burning act of retribution that could easily and irrevocably draw her into the flames.

This week I received seven new ARCs via Netgalley and one book in the mail from Freemantle Press who very kindly sent me another copy of the book that was missing from my parcel a couple of weeks back. It is Blood & Ink by Brett Adams

The ARCs I received from Netgalley are: In Little Stars by Linda Green

On the First Day of Christmas by Faith Hogan

Isabel Puddles Abroad by M.V. Byrne

The Ex by S.E. Lynes

Next in Line (William Warwick #5) by Jeffrey Archer

The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas

Bleeding Heart Yard (Harbinder Kaur #3) by Elly Griffiths

We have friends coming for dinner tonight, so will go and get everything prepped, then go make myself pretty.

Enjoy whatever is left of your weekend and happy reading my friend!

Death of a Green-Eyed Monster (Hamish Macbeth #34) by M.C. Beaton

EXCERPT: She was stunning. Her glossy black hair was drawn back into a high ponytail that dropped in a shining cascade beneath her hat. The shade from the brim did nothing to dim either the sparkle of her blue eyes or the radiance of the perfect smile with which she greeted him.

‘Good afternoon, Sergeant,’ she said, in a soft voice delicately laced with an endearing lilt that might have drifted in from the Western Isles on the summer breeze. ‘Constable Dorothy McIver reporting for duty.’

Hamish Macbeth could scarcely believe his eyes. Was this really his new constable?

ABOUT ‘DEATH OF A GREEN-EYED MONSTER’: Hamish’s new constable, Dorothy McIver, may be the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Completely bewitched by her sparkling blue eyes, Hamish spends the summer traveling with her up and down Sutherland until finally, he can take it no longer. He gets down on one knee beside the Land Rover and begs her to marry him—and to his amazement and delight, she says yes.

But just as the town of Lochdubh gets ready to celebrate, Hamish finds himself with a new murder on his hands. If he doesn’t find the killer fast, Hamish’s dream wedding could become a nightmare.

MY THOUGHTS: Apparently M.C. Beaton was working on this story at the time of her death. I enjoyed Death of a Green-Eyed Monster, but perhaps not as much as some of the earlier books.

Hamish just isn’t . . . Hamish. He’s just not that cheeky, caring, ‘pushing the boundaries’ rural copper that us followers of this series have come to love and respect.

I was worried that Hamish’s romance with Dorothy was moving too fast and that she was too good to be true. Was I right? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

And to be quite honest, the whole book moved too fast. We didn’t get the full benefit of the Lochdubh characters, and there are some wonderful characters in this village. I missed his meandering and apparently pointless conversations which often elicit important information.

I did enjoy catching up with both of Hamish’s ex-fiancees – and had a bit of a smile at the thought of them being Dorothy’s attendants at the wedding.

I didn’t find this particular crime to be all that interesting, probably because it involved an organised crime family. I really enjoy a more local flavour.

Is this to be the last we see of Hamish? I don’t think so. Mr Green tells us that M.C. Beaton left several outlines to be completed. So we may have more Hamish coming, but we may have to get used to a slightly different Hamish; a changed man.

⭐⭐⭐.7

THE AUTHOR: Marion Chesney was born on 1936 in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, and started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department in John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she got an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to be their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead. She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter. After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion went to the United States where Harry had been offered the job of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. When that didn’t work out, they went to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson Davies in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs on Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York.

Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, urged by her husband, started to write historical romances in 1977. After she had written over 100 of them under her maiden name, Marion Chesney, and under the pseudonyms: Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, Helen Crampton, Charlotte Ward, and Sarah Chester, she getting fed up with 1714 to 1910, she began to write detectives stories in 1985 under the pseudonym of M. C. Beaton. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Constable Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house and croft in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. But Charles was at school, in London so when he finished and both tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.

Outside Looking In (DCI Matilda Darke #2) by Michael Wood

EXCERPT: Half hanging out of the car was the stricken body of a woman. Her face was a mess of sticky drying blood; her long hair was tangled and matted. She was naked from the waist down and was literally drenched in blood. One hand held onto her stomach where blood pumped out between her fingers. The other hand was rhythmically banging on the horn. She was half in, half out of the car, her body at an uncomfortable angle. She looked up and saw George through swollen eyes. She stopped the beeping and slumped to the ground. There was a brief smile on her face before her body gave up and she lost consciousness.

George dug the phone out of his coat pocket and dialled 999. He gave his location and tried to say what had happened but he couldn’t find the words. After he ended the call he phoned his wife. He told her that she would soon see the flashing lights of the police but not to panic as everything was all right. It was the first time he had ever lied to his wife.

ABOUT ‘OUTSIDE LOOKING IN’: When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead. The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again.

MY THOUGHTS: At one point in this tense thriller, DCI
Matilda Darke reflects that the investigation is like having “all the pieces of the jigsaw but…from different boxes”. And it is exactly like that. There is no obvious suspect. There are contenders, but none of them seem quite right. I, of course, suspected everyone but the right person.

I am really enjoying this series, dark – but with a little humour – compelling, and addictive (I’m bingeing), they are hard to put down.

Matilda Darke is a character with real depth. It is the first anniversary of her husband’s death, and she is still mourning his loss. The problem is, along with the thoughts of her husband James, comes those of the botched Carl Meagan kidnapping case which happened the same day as James died. So Matilda isn’t exactly in a great place, mentally, to start with. But she’s a fighter, determined, and pragmatic. And she has a great team behind her.

Sian, who always has a drawer full of chocolatey snacks, is a favourite of mine along with Rory, and Adele, the Home Office Pathologist.

There are other things going on as Matilda and her team are struggling to solve this puzzling case. There’s a string of violent burglaries; an elderly man jumps off the roof of his apartment building, but there are some puzzling aspects to his death; there’s a journalist out to make a name for himself at Matilda’s expense; a disgruntled ex-colleague intent on revenge; and Matilda thinks she is being followed.

Outside Looking In is a book about love, betrayal, tragedy, and revenge.

Although this is a series, each book is able to be read as a stand-alone as the author provides enough background information to do so. BUT, you will miss out on the development of the characters relationships and, I am sure that once you have read one book in this series, like me, you are going to want to read the lot.

Stephanie Beattie made an amazing job of narrating. I totally forgot that I was listening to one person. Her voice range, and intonation is excellent.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

I: @michaelwoodbooks @onemorechapter

T: @MichaelHWood @OneMoreChapter

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

THE AUTHOR: Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

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

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

A Murder of Crows by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

EXCERPT: ‘You . . . you don’t sound very fine. Why are you whispering?’

‘Well, I’ve just been to the police, to tell them what I heard in the tunnel . . .’

‘You did?’ An exhale puffed down the line. ‘I’m so relieved you told them. So now they’ll realise you may be in danger. Offer some protection instead of treating you like a . . .’

‘Yeah. That’s not exactly how it went down. Oh . . . bollocks . . .’ Nell crouched down low as the guard walked along the cordon towards her. She had hoped to speak to James; even if he thought she was pathetic, at least he seemed inclined to believe her. But, instead, it was Val who received Nell’s update with the sceptical remark that, now that she was a person of interest, how handy it was that she could suddenly remember more details. The cynicism had pushed Nell to take a more . . . proactive approach.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I can’t really speak now.’

The silence at the end of the line convinced Nell that he had gone and it wouldn’t be rude to hang up. But as her thumb reached the button, Adam swore through the phone.

‘Nell, I can see where you are. You’re still sharing your location with me from doing the survey. What the bloody hell are you doing?’

ABOUT ‘A MURDER OF CROWS’: Dr Nell Ward is an ecologist, not a detective. But when she’s the prime suspect in a murder, only her unique set of skills could help to clear her name…

In the sleepy village of Cookingdean, Dr Nell Ward is busy working in the grounds of a local manor house. Whilst inspecting an old tunnel, the last thing she expects to overhear is a murder. As the only person with any clues as to what happened, Nell soon finds herself in the middle of the investigation.

Desperate to clear her name Nell, along with her colleague Adam, set out solving the murder using their skills as ecologists to uncover details no one else would notice. But it soon becomes clear that playing Agatha Christie is much harder than it might, at first appear…

MY THOUGHTS: A Murder of Crows is a nice cosy mystery with a twist – Lady Eleanor Ward-Beaumont, heiress, to a few select people; Dr Nell Ward, ecologist, to everyone else.

Don’t go into A Murder of Crows expecting a tea and crumpets in front of the fire type of cosy; it’s more hiking boots, waterproofs and bats, with the occasional flute of champagne. There are no ‘cute’ plays on words – excuse my sigh of relief – but you will learn a lot about bats. And Nell is quite adept at using her ecological survey equipment for surveillance on murder suspects.

There’s lots of ecological trivia imparted (my life is much enriched by now being able to differentiate between rodent poo and bat poo), but at no point is it preachy or overwhelming. It’s just worked nicely into the plot.

There’s no shortage of suspects for the murder, and it’s planning and execution is actually quite clever. Unusually for a cosy, there are chapters written from the investigating officers points of view, which I quite liked.

The possibility of romance is hinted at throughout with two men vying for Nell’s attention, but she manages to get offside of both of them at various times.

I enjoyed this read, but once the murderer is exposed there’s a little too much after story. I believe that this is the first in a proposed series, so perhaps the author is just setting the stage for what is to come. Time will tell.

I will be putting my hand up for a copy of the next in the series.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#AMurderofCrows #NetGalley

I: #sarahyarwood-lovett @emblabooks

T: @Sarah_Y_L @emblabooks

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: After spending sixteen years as an ecologist, crawling through undergrowth and studying nocturnal habits of animals (and people), Dr Sarah Yarwood-Lovett naturally turned her mind to murder. She may have swapped badgers for bears when she emigrated from a quaint village in the South Downs to the wild mountains of the Pacific Northwest, but her books remain firmly rooted in the rolling downland she grew up in.

Forensically studying clues for animal activity has seen Sarah surveying sites all over the UK and around the world. She’s re-discovered a British species thought to be extinct during her PhD, with her record held in London’s Natural History Museum; debated that important question – do bats wee on their faces? – at school workshops; survived a hurricane on a coral atoll whilst scuba diving to conduct marine surveys; and given evidence as an expert witness.

Along the way, she’s discovered a noose in an abandoned warehouse and had a survey de-railed by the bomb squad. Her unusual career has provided the perfect inspiration for a series of murder mysteries with an ecological twist – so, these days, Sarah’s research includes consulting detectives, lawyers, judges and attending murder trials. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Embla Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Murder of Crows by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett 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 . . .

Firstly, I have to apologise for lack of a post on Friday (NZ time). Our internet went down at lunchtime Friday and wasn’t restored until 2 am Saturday.

Currently I am reading One Last Day of Summer by Shari Lowe. I started this in the early hours of this morning and am really enjoying it.

As a flight to St Lucia leaves the runway, four passengers meet for the first time.

After escaping her controlling husband, Bernadette Manson is taking the first extravagant holiday of her new life. But when her best friend cancels, will she be strong enough to fly solo?

Tadgh Donovan is about to jet off to his destination wedding when he sees a shocking text. Has his bride-to-be written her wedding vows… or already broken them?

Hayley Ford is the wife of a top fertility specialist yet her battle to get pregnant has almost broken her marriage. Can a trip to the sun heal their relationship or should she brace for a crash landing?

Dev Robbins is crossing oceans to track down the woman he fell in love with at first sight. Will it be a one way trip to happy ever after or a return journey to singledom?

One Last Day of Summer is due for publication July 19th 2022.

I am also reading Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster. 

This is certainly a chilling read and will also be published July 19th, 2022.

After the Flood by Dave Warner. I was so excited to receive some real book mail, although the excitement was somewhat tempered by one of the three books missing out of the parcel. NOT the publisher’s fault. The bag had obviously been tampered with. Kudos and a huge thank you to Freemantle Press for sending out the missing book.

A disturbing, seemingly ritualistic murder on a remote North-West cattle station has Detective Inspector Dan Clement and his Broome police officers unnerved and baffled. Other local incidents – the theft of explosives from mine site, social justice protests at an abattoir, a break-in at an early childhood clinic- seems mundane by comparison.

But as Clement starts to make troubling connections between each crime, he finds himself caught in terrifying race. In a landmass larger than Western Europe, he must identify and protect an unidentified target before it’s blown to bits by an unidentified terrorist.

Now, don’t usually read books about terrorism, but this has me enthralled.

and I am listening to A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood (Matilda Darke #3) This is a backtitle read for me from 2017. Currently at 55% through, it’s looking like five star read.

Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

This week, in addition to Black Mouth and One Last Day of Summer, both of which I already reading, I have The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell scheduled for review.

I love Lisa Jewell’s writing and was excited to receive an ARC for this.

Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.

Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.

After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present.

As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined.

This week I received eight new ARCs from Netgalley plus two from Freemantle Press, one being After the Flood by Dave Warner. The second book I received from Freemantle Press is The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison. Did I already mention how exciting it is to receive REAL book mail?

And from Netgalley I have received Foster by Claire Keegan

Lovely Girls by Margot Hunt

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

Dead Real by Helen H. Durrant

The Stranger Vanishes by Wendy Corsi Staub, a Lily Vale Mystery

And the last is a publiher’s widget, There’s Been a Little Incident by Alice Ryan

Have you read, or do you have any of these to read?

Have a wonderful week!❤📚