A Body at Lavender Cottage by Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: She wondered why Barney was barking so manically at the back of the garage. Laying down her basket, Kate went to investigate, expecting to find a dead squirrel, rabbit or even a fox.

Instead, the first things she saw were two upturned, dirty trainer-clad feet, just visible around the edge of the garage. Her blood ran cold. Why would anyone be lying there unless they’d been very drunk and forgotten how to get home from the pub down the lane?

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT LAVENDER COTTAGE’: Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve loved this series with its brilliant cast of characters, and plots with plenty of red herrings. This case hits a little closer to home for Kate, as her beloved Woody has past history with the victim and is the main suspect. Perhaps that’s why Kate does the absolutely stupid thing she does – putting her own life in danger – that completely took the shine off what otherwise was a great story.

Not only is there a murderer on the loose – Kate is having to deal with her sister’s relationship difficulties, and the possibility that both her sister and a workmate are being targeted by conmen.

I love Kate’s character. She’s sensible, sharp and witty, and I love that she’s a woman in her sixties; which made what she did seem all the more out of character. Angie, Kate’s sister, is another great character. Angie and Kate are polar opposites, but are very loyal to one another.

This is probably my least favourite book in the series so far, but I still enjoyed this entertaining, quick, easy read although I didn’t become as invested in it as I have in the previous books.

While it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in the series as each one is an complete mystery, it does help to understand the relationships and dynamics between the core characters.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#ABodyatLavenderCottage #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #romance #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at Lavender Cottage 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

First Lines Friday

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Happy Friday and welcome to First Lines Friday hosted by Reading is my SuperPower.

Think back. The signs were there. What were they?

They all asked themselves the same question afterwards. ‘How did it come to this? Could we have stopped it?

Like what you’ve just read?

Want to keep reading?

Pick up a copy of Exiles by Jane Harper.

At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.

Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

No Strangers Here (County Kerry Mystery #1) written by Carlene O’Connor, narrated by Emily O’Mahony

EXCERPT: The dead man wore a designer suit to the beach. He was found along Slea Head Drive, at the base of a small cliff, on Clogher Strand. There he was, early on a Sunday morning in June, reposed against a craggy boulder in his fancy navy suit, starched white shirt and vibrant green tie. Next to his body, two words had been formed using sixty-nine gleaming black stones: LAST DANCE. The stones popped against the pale sand. It wasn’t a whisper, it was a shout. His legs were straight out in front of him, his hands rested palms up on his thighs, and his sky-blue eyes were open, forever staring out to sea. The only visible sign of distress was the white foam pooling at the corners of his gaped mouth. The lines fanning out across his face, and wisps of silver hair clinging to a mostly bald head betrayed his advanced age. A card with a black background peeked out of the dead man’s suit pocket. Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien maneuvered around the cordon they’d placed around the body to get a closer look.

ABOUT ‘NO STRANGERS HERE’: On a rocky beach in the southwest of Ireland, the body of Jimmy O’Reilly, sixty-nine years old and dressed in a suit and his dancing shoes, is propped on a boulder, staring sightlessly out to sea. A cryptic message is spelled out next to the body with sixty-nine polished black stones and a discarded vial of deadly veterinarian medication lies nearby. Jimmy was a wealthy racehorse owner, known far and wide as The Dancing Man. In a town like Dingle, everyone knows a little something about everyone else. But dig a bit deeper, and there’s always much more to find. And when Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien is dispatched out of Killarney to lead the murder inquiry, he’s determined to unearth every last buried secret.

Dimpna Wilde hasn’t been home in years. As picturesque as Dingle may be for tourists in search of their roots and the perfect jumper, to her it means family drama and personal complications. In fairness, Dublin hasn’t worked out quite as she hoped either. Faced with a triple bombshell—her mother rumored to be in a relationship with Jimmy, her father’s dementia is escalating, and her brother is avoiding her calls—Dimpna moves back to clear her family of suspicion.

Despite plenty of other suspects, the guards are crawling over the Wildes. But the horse business can be a brutal one, and as Dimpna becomes more involved with her old acquaintances and haunts, the depth of lingering grudges becomes clear. Theft, extortion, jealousy and greed. As Dimpna takes over the family practice, she’s in a race with the detective inspector to uncover the dark, twisting truth, no matter how close to home it strikes . . .

MY THOUGHTS: No Strangers Here is a mystery thick with both atmosphere and compelling characters. O’Connor sets the scene in the very first chapter, leaving the reader in doubt where they are: a colorful and historic town right on the coast of southwest Ireland relying on tourism and fishing for its livelihood. The scenery is gorgeous and moody, the characters complex and all hiding something.

O’Brien has been brought in as an outsider to solve the murder of a wealthy and well-known local man. As an outsider it is expected that he have no history with anyone involved, no personal agenda. But is that going to be enough to combat the far-reaching powers of the wealthy O’Reilly family who have already made up their minds who is responsible for this murder and are calling for a speedy arrest. Dimpna, a petite veterinarian whose own life has imploded, now finds herself battling not only the O’Reilly’s but the police in an effort to clear her parents from suspicion. Dimpna has battled the O’Reilly’s before – there’s no love lost there. What she discovers is a tangled web of secrets and lies, some going back as far as her childhood.

I have read some of Carlene O’Connors Village Mystery books previously, but here her writing has reached a whole new level. Somewhat darker than a traditional cosy-mystery, and with plot-twists I never saw coming, O’Connor kept me intrigued throughout. County Kerry Mysteries is a new series that I am excited about.

I listened to the audiobook of No Strangers Here, superbly narrated by Emily O’Mahony

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#NoStrangersHere #NetGalley

I: @writergirlchi @recordedbooks

T: #CarleneOConnor @RBMediaCo

#cosymystery #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #family drama #irishfiction #murdermystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Born into a long line of Irish storytellers, Carlene O’Connor’s great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland filled with tales in 1897 and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places she’s wandered across the pond, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork, the setting of her Irish Village Mystery series.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media for providing an audio ARC of No Strangers Here, written by Carlene O’Connor and narrated by Emily Mahony, 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! ❤📚

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce

EXCERPT: It was too early for birdsong. Harold lay beside her, his hands neat on his chest, looking so peaceful she wondered where he travelled in his sleep. Certainly not the places she went: if she closed her eyes, she saw roadworks. Dear God, she thought. This is no good. She got up in the pitch-black, took off her nightdress and put on her best blue blouse with a pair of comfortable slacks and a cardigan. ‘Harold?’ she called. ‘Are you awake?’ But he didn’t stir. She picked up her shoes and shut the bedroom door without a sound. If she didn’t go now, she never would.

ABOUT ‘MAUREEN FRY AND THE ANGEL OF THE NORTH’: Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn’t end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.

Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen’s turn to make her own journey.

But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she’ll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this beautifully written novella. Rachel Joyce is back to writing what she does best.

I enjoyed this every bit as much as The Love Songs of Queenie Hennessy, and rather more than The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. BTW, you will need to read the preceding two books or this will make very little sense to you.

Maureen isn’t the easiest person to like. There is no way she could be described as a ‘people person’. She is rigid in both her beliefs and actions. What other people think matters very much. And yet, like her I did. I was mortified for her over her little ‘accident’. I cringed along with her at Kate’s living conditions. I wanted to grab her and make her sit down and properly take in Queenie’s garden. But of course, I couldn’t.

When Maureen sets out on her journey, she doesn’t realise that she’s going to find her true self, but ultimately that is what she does.

A wonderful read that had me in tears at times but left me smiling.

My favourite quote: ‘It wasn’t that he was losing his mind, rather that he was deliberately taking things out of it that he no longer needed.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#MaureenFrysOnHerWay #NetGalley

I: @rachelcjoyce @randomhouse @transworldbooks @doubledayukbooks

T: @randomhouse @transworldbooks @doubledaybooks

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman’s Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday for providing a digital ARC of Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce 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 my webpage

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome to a wet and windy New Zealand Sunday afternoon. The wind howling around the house, the heavy rain and the thunder and lightning kept me awake last night. Today is a lot calmer, I’m pleased to say.

Unusually for me, I am not currently reading anything! Sorry, should I have warned you to be sitting safely down before I made that statement? But be reassured, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I finished reading two books this morning: The novella Foster by Claire Keegan

A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry, A Garden Squad Mystery #5

Ever the quintessential New England town, Goosebush, Massachusetts, truly shines in springtime, but when an underhanded undertaker digs herself an early grave, only Lilly Jayne and her Garden Squad can unearth the cryptic killer . . .

With spring’s arrival in Goosebush, Lilly and the Beautification Committee turn their eyes to new projects. A cleanup of the historic Goosebush Cemetery may be in order, after Lilly and Delia find the plots there sorely neglected and inexplicably rearranged. Lilly soon discovers that Whitney Dunne-Bradford snapped up custodianship of the graveyard once she inherited Bradford Funeral Homes. But before Lilly can get to the bottom of the tombstone tampering, she stumbles upon Whitney’s body at the Jayne family mausoleum . . .

Though at first it appears Whitney died by suicide, Lilly has doubts, and apparently, so does Chief of Police Bash Haywood, who quickly opens a murder investigation. Plenty of folks in town had bones to pick with Whitney, including her stepdaughter, Sasha, and funeral home employee, Dewey Marsh–all three recently charged with illegal business practices. But when the homicide inquiry suddenly targets an old friend, Lilly and the Garden Squad must rally to exhume the truth before the real killer buries it forever . . . 

I have written reviews for both of these, and I also finished listening to The Tilt by Chris Hammer, but am still to write my review on this Australian crime thriller.

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?

I actually read all the books that I had planned to read for the week (1 dnf) , a definite bonus of having a chest infection.

I have loaded Day’s End by Garry Disher, #4 in the Paul Hirschausen series, to start reading when I have finished this post.

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.

I have also loaded The Work Wives by Rachel Johns to start.

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

And No Strangers Here (County Kerry Mystery #1) written by Carlene O’Connor, and narrated by Emily O’Mahony, to listen to.

On a rocky beach in the southwest of Ireland, the body of Jimmy O’Reilly, sixty-nine years old and dressed in a suit and his dancing shoes, is propped on a boulder, staring sightlessly out to sea. A cryptic message is spelled out next to the body with sixty-nine polished black stones and a discarded vial of deadly veterinarian medication lies nearby. Jimmy was a wealthy racehorse owner, known far and wide as The Dancing Man. In a town like Dingle, everyone knows a little something about everyone else. But dig a bit deeper, and there’s always much more to find. And when Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien is dispatched out of Killarney to lead the murder inquiry, he’s determined to unearth every last buried secret.

Dimpna Wilde hasn’t been home in years. As picturesque as Dingle may be for tourists in search of their roots and the perfect jumper, to her it means family drama and personal complications. In fairness, Dublin hasn’t worked out quite as she hoped either. Faced with a triple bombshell—her mother rumored to be in a relationship with Jimmy, her father’s dementia is escalating, and her brother is avoiding her calls—Dimpna moves back to clear her family of suspicion.

Despite plenty of other suspects, the guards are crawling over the Wildes. But the horse business can be a brutal one, and as Dimpna becomes more involved with her old acquaintances and haunts, the depth of lingering grudges becomes clear. Theft, extortion, jealousy and greed. As Dimpna takes over the family practice, she’s in a race with the detective inspector to uncover the dark, twisting truth, no matter how close to home it strikes . . .

Other books that I have to read for review this week are: Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Millie Partridge desperately needs a party. So, when her (handsome and charming) ex-colleague Nick invites her to a Hebridean Island for New Year’s Eve, she books her ticket North.

But things go wrong the moment the ferry drops her off. The stately home is more down at heel than Downton Abbey. Nick hasn’t arrived yet. And the other revellers? Politely, they aren’t exactly who she would have pictured Nick would be friends with.

Worse still, an old acquaintance from Millie’s past has been invited, too. Penny Maybury. Millie and Nick’s old colleague. Somebody Millie would rather have forgotten about. Somebody, in fact, that Millie has been trying very hard to forget.

Waking up on New Year’s Eve, Penny is missing. A tragic accident? Or something more sinister? With a storm washing in from the Atlantic, nobody will be able reach the group before they find out.

One thing is for sure – they’re going to see in the new year with a bang.

The Next Best Day by Sharon Sala

A fresh start for a young teacher to build the life she’s dreamt of
A second chance at romance for a single dad
The warm and uplifting small-town community cheering them on

After two back-to-back life-changing events, first grade teacher Katie McGrath left Albuquerque for a fresh start in Borden’s Gap, Tennessee. She is finally back in the classroom where she belongs, but it will take a little while for her to heal and feel truly like herself. She’ll need to dig deep to find the courage it takes to try again—in life and in love—but with some help from her neighbor Sam Youngblood and his adorable daughters who bring her out of her shell, her future is looking brighter than she dared imagine. 

A Body at Lavender Cottage, (A Kate Palmer mystery #6) by Dee MacDonald

Nurse Kate Palmer is Cornwall’s answer to Miss Marple! But when a body turns up in her own garden can Kate solve the crime? Or is the murder a bit too close to home?

Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

I received six new ARCs from Netgalley this week, including the audio of No Strangers Here. They are: Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza

Those Empty Eyes by Charlie Donlea

On Spine of Death by Tamara Berry

Tell Me Lies by Teresa Driscoll

And the audiobook, The Couple in the Cabin, written by Daniel Hurst and narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates

Do you have any of these on your tbr shelf?

Before I go, does anyone have a nice, tasty pumpkin pie recipe that they don’t mind sharing? I love pumpkin pie, but there are so many recipes out there it’s mind boggling!

Have a great weekend.