The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

EXCERPT: taken from 30 and Out by Doug Allyn

The sign on the door read Sgt. Charles Marx, Major Crimes. I raised my fist to knock, then realised the guy at the desk wasn’t just resting his eyes. He was totally out, slouched in his chair, his grubby Nikes up on his desk, baseball cap tipped down over his eyes, snoring softly. Looked like a Class C wrestling coach after a losing season. Edging in quietly, I eased down into the chair facing his desk. When I glanced up, his eyes were locked on mine like lasers.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m Jax LaDart, Sergeant Marx. Your FNG.’

He frowned at that, then nodded. ‘The f*****g new guy,’ he said, massaging his eyelids with his fingertips. ‘Ah, right. You’re the home boy the chief hired, straight out of the army. I was reading your record. It put me to sleep.’ He spun the Dell laptop on his desk to show me the screen. ‘According to the Military Police, you’ve closed a lot of felony cases overseas, but the details are mostly redacted, blacked out.’

‘The army’d classify Three Blind Mice if they could. You don’t remember me, do you?’

ABOUT ‘THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP PRESENTS THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR: 2021: Under the auspices of New York City’s legendary mystery fiction specialty bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop, and aided by Edgar Award-winning anthologist Otto Penzler, international bestseller Lee Child has selected the twenty most suspenseful, most confounding, and most mysterious short stories from the past year, collected now in one entertaining volume.

Includes stories by:

Alison Gaylin
David Morrell
James Lee Burke
Joyce Carol Oates
Martin Edwards
Sara Paretsky
Stephen King
Sue Grafton (with a new, posthumously-published work!)

And many more!

MY THOUGHTS: There are a couple of absolutely brilliant stories in here – Sue Grafton’s ‘If You Want Something Done Right . . .’ and Stephen King’s ‘The Fifth Step’ are the two that stood out for me. Others that I enjoyed were: ‘The Locked Cabin’ by Martin Edwards, Janice Law’s ‘The Client’, and David Morrell’s ‘Requiem For A Homecoming.’ There was one story I absolutely detested – Parole Hearing by Joyce Carol Oates, and I didn’t much care for David Marcum’s ‘The Home Office Baby’ either, or the first two stories which were ‘tough guy’ fiction and almost completely put me off reading any more of the collection. The rest fell somewhere in the middle and were mostly quite mediocre.

This is by no means anywhere near my favourite collection. Quite a few, I zoned out of as I was listening, and had to return to. They just didn’t hold my interest; absolutely no reflection on the narrators who, on the whole did an excellent job.

I know 2020 was a difficult year for all, but I am sure that there were far better mystery stories out there that could have been included in this collection.

⭐⭐⭐

#TheBestMysteryStoriesoftheYear2021 #NetGalley

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

Edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Highbridge Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Best Mystery Stories of the Year:2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler 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 . . .

I am currently reading two books, both of which I have only just started: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her. 

And The Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

Our new home was supposed to be a chance to leave our past behind. But was moving here the worst mistake of our lives?

All our friends and family were gathered, glasses raised to toast our fresh start. It should have been a night for happiness and celebration. Zac and I had worked so hard for this: our first home together, just minutes from the sea. But the dream quickly turned into a nightmare…

We’d invited our neighbours too. I wanted to make a good impression – to show them we’re exactly the sort of people they want living on their street.

I hadn’t thought about who they might be, the strangers I was letting in.

It was going so well. There was laughter in the air and the wine was flowing. But then I noticed the narrowed eyes, the whispers.

And then the lights went out.

As my heart thumped in my chest, all the little things that had been going wrong since we moved here flashed through my mind: the food poisoning, the arguments, the flood of nasty reviews shaking my business.

Am I going crazy? Or is someone trying to destroy us?

I am 3/4 of the way through listening to The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021

I didn’t much like this collection after the first two stories, but after these they became far more interesting.

This week I am planning on reading Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

And The Parents by Claire Seeber

Moving to this village was supposed to be a fresh start for me and my thirteen-year-old son Harry. After the tragic death of my husband, it was a chance to leave everything bad behind and make better memories at Primrose Cottage, the postcard-perfect house with honeysuckle around the door.

However, things haven’t exactly been easy since we arrived, and after what we’ve been though, I’m scared of letting anyone new into our lives.

But when one of the local dads asks Harry to join the weekend sports club, I find myself saying yes. The smile on my son’s face gives me hope that I might have made the right decision in uprooting our lives.

All the other parents seem so kind in welcoming me into the fold. At least, they are to begin with… Until someone begins anonymously exposing secrets about everyone in the group.

As betrayals surface and the claws come out, I see how imperfect these people really are; and how far they’ll go to hide the truth. Then when one of the parents ends up dead at the end of a party, I realise that it’s not just lies and scandal they’re covering up.

Too late, I realise that I should have stayed away…

And I plan to listen to Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

Eight strangers.
One island.
A secret you’d kill to keep.

When eight people arrive on the beautiful but remote Buidseach Island, they are ready for the challenge of a lifetime: to live alone for one year.

Eighteen months later, a woman is found in an isolated fishing village. She’s desperate to explain what happened to her: how the group fractured and friends became enemies; how they did what they must to survive until the boat came to collect them; how things turned deadly when the boat didn’t come…

But first Maddy must come to terms with the devastating secret that left them stranded, and her own role in the events that saw eight arrive and only three leave.

Only three new ARCs this week. They are: The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

and Prose and Cons by Wendy Corsi Straub

In my bookish travels this week,I have been all over the world in The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021; Sydney, Australia; Kent, England; and Boston, Massachusetts. Have we crossed paths this week?

Sorry about the brevity of the this post but I have worked through the entire week and am still a week away from my next day off. Going to make dinner, soak in bath with one of my books, then head off to bed. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. ❤📚

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Well, my requesting finger went into overdrive this week because I have eleven (yes 11) new ARCs on my shelf. As they say, it never rains, but it pours!

Amazon are currently not accepting my reviews because I haven’t spent enough money with them. Apparently the books I buy for Pete don’t count. 🤷‍♀️ So I have had a flurry of purchases over the past few days, but still no joy. Maybe I will have to wait until Monday USA time for it to update.

Currently I am reading Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life? 

And Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, one of my new ARCs this week.

The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light. 

I am enjoying both these books immensely.

I am listening to The Unheard by Nicci French, another this week’s ARCs. Also excellent.

Maybe Tess is overprotective, but passing her daughter off to her ex and his new young wife fills her with a sense of dread. It’s not that Jason is a bad father–it just hurts to see him enjoying married life with someone else. Still, she owes it to her daughter Poppy to make this arrangement work.

But Poppy returns from the weekend tired and withdrawn. And when she shows Tess a crayon drawing–an image so simple and violent that Tess can hardly make sense of it—-Poppy can only explain with the words, “He did kill her.”

Something is horribly wrong. Tess is certain Poppy saw something–or something happened to her–that she’s too young to understand. Jason insists the weekend went off without a hitch. Doctors advise that Poppy may be reacting to her parents’ separation. And as the days go on, even Poppy’s disturbing memory seems to fade. But a mother knows her daughter, and Tess is determined to discover the truth. Her search will set off an explosive tempest of dark secrets and buried crimes–and more than one life may be at stake.

This week I am planning on reading The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

I am working the next two weeks straight as I have staff away on leave, so am not overcommitting myself.

The ARCs I received this week, in addition to Apples Never Fall and The Unheard, are:

A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristin Harper

The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

Past Life by David Mark

Where There’s a Will by Sulari Gentill

The Devil’s Choir by Michael Michaud

Many Deadly Returns, 21 stories celebrating 21 years of the Murder Squad

Stranded, an audio ARC written by Sarah Goodwin and narrated by Esme Sears

Another audio ARC, The Best Mystery Stories of 2021

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

and, finally, an Australian novel, A Little Bird by Wendy James

Thank you to all the enablers out there whose reviews I have read and decided that I can’t live without reading that book, and whose TBR piles have revealed gems that I simply must read. No need to name you all – you know who you are.

I still have 21 pending requests. 🤦‍♀️

This week I have been to Barcelona, Spain; North Devon, England, Austria, France and Panama (1914 – 1935) ; Stamford, Connecticut; and Weybridge in Surrey. Have we crossed paths? Where have your travels taken you this week?

Have a wonderful week of reading, and stay safe my friends ❤📚

Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi

EXCERPT: ‘How much do I owe you for the ma’amoul?’ she asked.

‘No, nothing at all. The first order is on the house for new customers. It is tradition in my shop. So that we can have the pleasure of welcoming you here again. Ahlan wa Scanlan,’ he said and smiled at her like a teenager with a crush.

The boy at the oven snorted loudly and smirked. His boss shot him a warning glare that sent him back to the counter in the back, where he slouched over the balls of dough and started kneading briskly.

‘No, I can’t possibly accept your generous offer, Abu Issam,’ the young woman protested. ‘Please let me pay for the ma’amoul. After all, we’re neighbours, not strangers.’

ABOUT ‘SYRIAN BRIDES’: This collection of short stories offers insight into the lives of Syrian women, both the married and the brides-to-be. It reveals the warmth and humor as well as the oppression in the Syrian society. The stories make the reader laugh while addressing serious issues such as domestic violence.
Um Hussam can’t find a suitable bride for her son, testing each candidate’s sight, hearing and reading skills, occasionally cobbing a feel. Jamila’s husband Hassan can’t forget his deceased wife, until she makes sure he never mentions her again. Rami can’t help but wonder whether his new bride is a natural beauty or a talented surgeon’s masterpiece. Khadija’s maid stabs her in the back while Rana’s husband Muafak can’t find the right excuse to avoid a fight.

MY THOUGHTS: I think that I am quite alone in my opinion of Syrian Brides. I struggled. I found this collection of short stories to be neither delightful, nor humorous. I wanted to give up, close the cover and move onto something else. But I persevered, hoping to find what so many other readers found to enjoy. I failed.

The ideas for the stories were mostly good, some very clever. But I struggled with the repetitive speech of the characters. I admire the intent of the author, and I can think of several of my friends who would enjoy this, but I am sorry, it’s just not for me.

⭐⭐

#Syrian Brides

THE AUTHOR: Anna Halabi was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. She emigrated to Europe in 1999 for her university studies. She currently lives with her family in Germany.
Syrian Brides is her debut as an author. The stories and characters in this collection were inspired by her personal experiences as well as her relatives, friends and TV shows.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Anna Halabi for providing me with a digital copy of Syrian Brides 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 . . .

Storm clouds are gathering. The weather that has flooded New South Wales this week is due to hit New Zealand tonight. The sunrise this morning was spectacular, but I’m afraid that I just lay in bed and enjoyed it this morning. I did think about leaping out of bed and grabbing the camera, but my body wasn’t listening 🤷‍♀️

Currently I am reading Small Town Secrets by Alys Murray, which is absolutely delightful! This is a book that I requested because the cover appealed, but it is definitely a winner. It’s a light romance with a few life lessons. I love the characters, who are well developed, quirky, and believable.

I am listening to Partners in Crime by Stuart MacBride, (Logan McRae 6.5-7.5) I love this author’s sense of humour.

I am also reading The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. This is another book peopled by characters I love. This is the April group read for the ‘All About Books’ Goodreads.com group. This would make an excellent movie.

This week I am planning on reading Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi. The author provided me with an ARC.

This delightful collection of short stories offers insight into the lives of Syrian women, both the married and the brides-to-be. It reveals the warmth and humor as well as the oppression in the Syrian society. The stories make the reader laugh while addressing serious issues such as domestic violence.
Um Hussam can’t find a suitable bride for her son, testing each candidate’s sight, hearing and reading skills, occasionally cobbing a feel. Jamila’s husband Hassan can’t forget his deceased wife, until she makes sure he never mentions her again. Rami can’t help but wonder whether his new bride is a natural beauty or a talented surgeon’s masterpiece. Khadija’s maid stabs her in the back while Rana’s husband Muafak can’t find the right excuse to avoid a fight. 

And Of Magpies and Men by Ode Ray. This is also an author ARC.

Can any good come of longings that a person can never satisfy? If so, good for whom?

Two corpses wash ashore in a picturesque Italian village, the violence that put them there is bound to a long-held secret and two strangers living worlds apart with seemingly nothing in common.

Benedict Grant a wealthy Londoner, leading a lonely life.

Marie Boulanger a nurse and single mum, struggling to make ends meet in Marseille.

However, a mother’s illicit revelation will set in motion a chain of events that will reshape their identities, stir poignant family affairs and delve into the by-products of lawless decisions.

I am possibly being a little ambitious this week as it is the end of our financial year so there’s a lot of extra work to be done.

I received three new Netgalley ARCs this week:

The Last Night in London by Karen White

My Little Girl by Shalini Boland

and The Whispers by Heidi Perks

What are you planning on reading this week? I have three reviews I need to write, but as I am having trouble stringing my thoughts together coherently, I will wait until the morning to make a start, and hope that get a good night’s sleep tonight.

Has anyone else had any trouble downloading the audiobook Mrs Wiggins? I have made several unsuccessful attempts to download it to my ipod. It jams at around 10% and goes no further. I haven’t had this problem with any of the other audiobooks I have downloaded from Netgalley.

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚

Murder in Paradise: Thirteen Mysteries from the Travels of Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie

ABOUT ‘MURDER IN PARADISE’: Train journeys through rolling countryside and cruises across the open ocean might sound like paradise, but when murder strikes mid-journey, they’re anything but. Even on vacation, tensions can bubble beneath the surface, and when the end of the line leads to murder, everyone’s a suspect.

STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION: ·The Plymouth Express ·The Submarine Plans ·Problem at Sea ·How Does Your Garden Grow? ·The Market Basing Mystery ·The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan ·The Million Dollar Bond Robbery ·The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb ·The Affair at The Victory Ball ·The King of Clubs ·The Lemesurier Inheritance ·The Cornish Mystery ·The Adventure of the Clapham Cook

MY THOUGHTS: What a treat it was to have David Suchet narrate this collection! A few of these stories are also included in the Poirot Investigates collection, but they were just as interesting second time around.

This collection of short stories, also featuring Poirot’s sidekick Hastings and occasionally Inspector Japp, although lacking the depth of the Poirot novels, were still entertaining and stretched ‘the little grey cells!’ Oui!

⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. The Millers had two other children: Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), called Madge, who was eleven years Agatha’s senior, and Louis Montant Miller (1880–1929), called Monty, ten years older than Agatha.

Before marrying and starting a family in London, she had served in a Devon hospital during the First World War, tending to troops coming back from the trenches. During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. During the Second World War, she worked as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, London, acquiring a good knowledge of poisons which feature in many of her novels.

Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During her first marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.

In late 1926, Agatha’s husband, Archie, revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 8 December 1926 the couple quarreled, and Archie Christie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for eleven days.

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie’s death in 1976.

Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born. Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie’s room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estate in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust.

Christie often stayed at Abney Hall in Cheshire, which was owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts. She based at least two of her stories on the hall: the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, and the novel After the Funeral. Abney Hall became Agatha’s greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots.

To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Murder in Paradise, written by Agatha Christie, narrated by David Suchet, and published by Harper Collins during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, via Overdrive. 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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Pianos and Flowers: Brief Encounters of the Romantic Kind by Alexander McCall Smith

EXCERPT: This is an extract from the title story, Pianos and Flowers.

She read constantly, almost a novel a day. She devoured Maugham’s ‘The Casuarina Tree’, saying to herself, ‘Yes, yes, that’s exactly right,’ although her friend wrote to her from Penang to say how angry they were that he had abused their hospitality by writing about them. ‘That man,’ she steamed, ‘accepted the hospitality of a whole lot of people – some of whom you and I actually know, Francie – and then writes about them like that! As if adultery and back-biting were the only things we thought about from the moment we get out of bed – rarely our own bed, in Mr Maugham’s view – until the time we turn the lights out. If you could hear some of the things they are saying about that man here, and his so-called secretary…’

ABOUT ‘PIANOS AND FLOWERS’: A delightful compendium of short stories inspired by images in the renowned photographic archive of The Sunday Times.

A picture can paint a thousand words, but what about a vintage photograph?

In 2015 Alexander McCall Smith wrote a book entitled Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories, in which he imagined the stories behind five chanced-upon black and white photographs. Who were those people, why were they smiling, what made them sad? He so enjoyed the experience that when The Sunday Times generously offered him access to their early 20th century photograph archive he jumped at the opportunity.

MY THOUGHTS: 14 short stories accompanied by the photos which inspired them. Some are clever, some are witty, some sad, some touching, and I found only one to be mundane.

There’s one photo that particularly touched my heart, that of a group of boys, many in sixth or seventh hand shoes.

The stories themselves are varied in subject matter: there are stories of families, friendship, romance, obligation, business and travel. They are stories of every day people going about their lives in the 1800s, their trials and tribulations, the things that make them happy and sad.

A lovely book designed, I think, to be dipped into from time to time rather than be read in one sitting. There is certainly food for thought in more than one of these stories, and I am sure that I will be picking this book up again.

⭐⭐⭐.6

THE AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith 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 . . .

A glorious morning has turned into a wet and stormy afternoon here in New Zealand. Pete has been away for the weekend fishing up the Coromandel. He had a wonderful time with his mates and they even brought home a few fish! I had to work this weekend otherwise I would have been with them. I haven’t been up the Coromandel for almost 40 years.

8I am currently reading Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall. It is a collection of short stories written about some historical photos. I am really enjoying this.

I am currently listening to Murder in Paradise: Thirteen Mysteries from the Travels of Hercule Poirot. I have read/listened to some of these previously, but some of the stories are new to me.

This week I am planning on reading The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, the Goodreads.com Crime, Mysteries and Thrillers January group read. I am a little late starting as I committed to two group reads this month. But I have been wanting to read this ever since it came out, so I simply couldn’t pass on this.

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. 

I have ten books due to be read for review this week 🤦‍♀️ and obviously I am not going to get them all read. Bad planning, I know, and a mistake I am trying not to repeat. So I am planning on reading Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Who can forgive a mother who poisons her eight-year-old son? Even if it was an accident.

Tasha thought she had everything under control – her family life, her career as a nurse – until her son got into her stash of painkillers. Now, during her first weekend home from drug treatment, she must come to grips with the damage she’s done and somehow pick up the pieces. Told from the points of view of four different family members, Weekend Pass is a story about the lies we tell ourselves and the people we love. And it’s about struggling to rise above the mistakes that threaten to define us.

And Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

Not all secrets are meant to come out…

Twenty-five years ago, on Halloween night, eight-year-old Kelly Doherty went missing while out trick or treating with friends.
Her body was found three days later, floating face down, on the banks of the Creggan Reservoir by two of her young classmates.
It was a crime that rocked Derry to the core. Journalist Ingrid Devlin is investigating – but someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. As she digs further, Ingrid starts to realise that the Doherty family are not as they seem. But will she expose what really happened that night before it’s too late?

I have a busy week ahead at work so I probably won’t be able to sneak any extra reads in this week, but if I can, I will.

And of course I have already read and reviewed the amazing gangland crime thriller Family by Owen Mullen, which is being released 21 January.

Check out my review which I posted 11 January. This is one book that you won’t want to miss out on!.

I have only two new ARCs from Netgalley this week, so I am back on track. The first is The Words We Whisper by Mary Ellen Taylor

And Three Missing Days by Colleen Coble. This is my first book by this author so I am very excited!

Happy reading everyone, and enjoy whatever is left of your weekend!

Cheers

Sandy ❤📚

Bibliomysteries Volume 1 edited by Otto Penzler

EXCERPT: They’d met last night for the first time and now, mid-morning, they were finally starting to let go a bit, to relax, to trust each other. Almost to trust each other.

Such is the way it works when you are partnered with a stranger on a mission to kill. (An Acceptable Sacrifice by Jeffrey Deaver)

ABOUT ‘BIBLIOMYSTERIES Volume One’: If you open your dictionary, you will discover that there is no such word as “bibliomystery.” However, most mystery readers know that the word refers to a mystery story that involves the world of books: a bookshop, a rare volume, a library, a collector, or a bookseller.

The stories in this unique collection were commissioned by the Mysterious Bookshop. They were written by some of the mystery genre’s most distinguished authors. Tough guys like Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Loren D. Estleman, and Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Bestsellers like Nelson DeMille, Anne Perry, and Jeffery Deaver. Edgar winners such as C. J. Box, Thomas H. Cook, and Laura Lippman.

Here you will discover Sigmund Freud dealing with an unwelcome visitor; Columbo confronting a murderous bookseller; a Mexican cartel kingpin with a fatal weakness for rare books; and deadly secrets deep in the London Library; plus books with hidden messages, beguiling booksellers, crafty collectors, and a magical library that is guaranteed to enchant you. The stories have been published in seven languages—one has sold more than 250,000 copies as an e-book (“The Book Case” by Nelson DeMille)—and another won the Edgar Allan Poe Award as the Best Short Story of the Year (“The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository” by John Connolly).

MY THOUGHTS: This is a mostly excellent collection of short stories with books and mysteries at their centre. There is a mix of contemporary and historical fiction. There were a couple of stories that I felt weren’t really mysteries at all, but the high quality of the others eclipsed them.

My favourite story was ‘The Book of Virtue’ by Ken Bruen; the story I liked the least was ‘The Final Testament’ by Peter Blaumer.

The stories are: An Acceptable Sacrifice by Jeffrey Deaver ⭐⭐⭐
Pronghorns of the Third Reich by C.J. Box ⭐⭐⭐
The Book of Virtue by Ken Bruen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Book of Ghosts by Reed Farrell Coleman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Final Testament by Peter Blaumer ⭐⭐
What’s in a Name by Thomas H. Cook ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book Club by Lauren D. Estleman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Death Leaves a Bookmark by William Link ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Book Thing by Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Scroll by Anne Perry ⭐⭐⭐.5
It’s In the Book by Mickey Spillane and Max Allen Collins ⭐⭐⭐.5
The Long Sonata of the Dead by Andrew Taylor ⭐⭐⭐.5
Rides a Stranger by David Bell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository by John Connolly ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
The Book Case by Nelson De Mille ⭐⭐⭐

David Thomas May did an excellent job of narrating the stories. He had an awful lot of different voices to portray and did so admirably.

Please note: some books are harmed in the telling of these stories.

Overall a ⭐⭐⭐⭐.6 rating

#BibliomysteriesVolume1HighBridgeAudio #NetGalley

EDITOR: Otto Penzler is an editor of mystery fiction in the United States, and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, where he lives.

Otto Penzler founded The Mysteriour Press in 1975 and was the publisher of The Armchair Detective, the Edgar-winning quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, for seventeen years.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to HighBridge Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Bibliomysteries Volume 1 for review. Publication date 05 January 2021.

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

The Ocean House by Mary-Beth Hughes

EXCERPT: And maybe this is where the story begins. If the younger sister was the terrible middle, and the old poet, seen at long last through the eyes of love, was the end, then this, the poets began to believe – and it frightened them in its starkness – might be the start.

Who picked her stepmother up at the train station? They all did.

A huddle of poets, braced against the whipping wind off the icy river, sheltered only by each other’s warmth. The train crept in to a stop. They already felt the escaped curl on the collar. The sexy wisp. As if the old poet had bequeathed them something delicious. Alive. Breathing.

ABOUT ‘THE OCEAN HOUSE: STORIES’: Faith, a mother of two young children, Cece and Connor, is in need of summer childcare. As a member of a staid old beach club in her town and a self-made business consultant, she is appalled when her brother-in-law sends her an unruly, ill-mannered teenager named Lee-Ann who appears more like a wayward child than competent help. What begins as a promising start to a redemptive relationship between the two ends in a tragedy that lands Faith in a treatment facility, leveled by trauma.

Years later, Faith and her mother, Irene, visit Cece in college. A fresh-faced student with a shaved head and new boyfriend, Cece has become a force of her own. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Irene, is in the early stages of dementia. She slips in and out of clarity, telling lucid tales of her own troubled youth. Faith dismisses her mother’s stories as bids for attention. The three generations of women hover between wishful innocence and a more knowing resilience against the cruelty that hidden secrets of the past propel into the present.

MY THOUGHTS: I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I didn’t get it. And when I say ‘I didn’t get it,’ I really didn’t get it.

I love interconnecting stories. I adore Elizabeth Strout’s work. But The Ocean House didn’t work for me. The publicity blurb says ‘The Ocean House weaves an exquisite world of complicated family tales on the Jersey Shore.’ Complicated is right. I found the writing restless and fidgety. I felt confused. If ever a book needed a family tree, this is it. I couldn’t get a handle on the characters at all, let alone figure out how they were connected.

I abandoned this read at 33%. I really wanted to like The Ocean House of which, btw, the only mention made of it by the time I abandoned the read was that it was let out for the summer and Cece was expected to clean it when the tenants moved out in return for subsidized rent on her apartment.

I think the cover is exquisite. I would have liked the contents to be equally so.

Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from The Ocean House, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this.

#TheOceanHouse #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Mary-Beth Hughes is the author of the bestselling novel Wavemaker II, a New York Times Notable Book, and the acclaimed collection Double Happiness, which earned a Pushcart Prize. Her latest book, The Loved Ones, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Georgia Review, and A Public Space. She lives in Brooklyn and Rhinebeck, New York. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Ocean House: Stories by Mary-Beth Hughes 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