A Place Like Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

EXCERPT: Anyway, there we were, on an early April afternoon riding along the sands when the mist came in. Or ‘fret’ as they call it in Northumberland. Daisy, being Northumbrian born and bred, was no more spooked by the fret than I was, but continued placidly on her way until we came to the rocks that mark the end of the bay.

We could not see these rocks, but there was the tang of seaweed, and the hiss and rumble of the flood tide moving in beneath the cliff. Fulmars nested on these shallow cliffs and the clammy air was rent with their strange cries. Daisy splashed through a deep sand pool and up on to the hard sand on the other side. The cliffs reared up before us, sinister in the fog, and I said to Daisy, ‘This is as far as we come,’ and started to turn her when we heard the cry. It could have been a Fulmar. I stopped and listened, and it came again.

‘Hello-o-o…?’

Daisy’s ears pricked. We stared into the fog, saw nothing.

‘Where are you-ou-ou?’

‘Here,’ I called back, and my voice sounded unfamiliar and puny and was lost in the echoes of the cliff face.

There came a scramble of falling stones. Daisy, uneasy of the unknown, whickered anxiously. I laid a hand on her neck, and her shaggy coat, beneath my palm, was beaded with damp. We waited, both straining our eyes and ears.

A movement through the fog; another stone rattled over rock, and the next moment, as though from nowhere, a figure appeared, took shape, not ten feet from where we stood. A small boy wearing jeans and a blue sweater, apparently soaking wet and all alone. – taken from the short story ‘Skelmerton’.

ABOUT ‘A PLACE LIKE HOME’: A heartwarming, escapist collection of fifteen stories from bestselling author Rosamunde Pilcher, published two years after her death, with an introduction by the now also deceased author Lucinda Riley.

In ‘Our Holiday’, a wife surprises her husband of twenty-five years with a trip full of Mediterranean sunshine, red rocks and blue seas, in an effort to rekindle the romance they had before children.

‘Skelmerton’ takes the reader to the bright spring sunshine and sparkling waves of a Northumbrian village, where old flames meet again.

In ‘A Place Like Home’, a young woman goes to recuperate in the Scottish countryside after a brief illness. The fruit orchards and fresh sea air offer refreshment and renewal – but not as much as the handsome, mysterious farmer.

Each of the stories is a perfect slice of romance written with warmth and passion, featuring some wonderfully memorable, smart and fiery female characters that will transport the reader to another time and place.

MY THOUGHTS: I am, and always have been, an ardent Rosamunde Pilcher fan and this delightful collection of fifteen short stories has only increased my admiration for this author. It has also made me realise that I am going to have to trawl the shelves of all the second hand bookstores and charity shops in order to fill in the gaps in my collection of her books.

Pilcher writes of a gentler time: a time of rambling old houses set in beautifully maintained gardens; of scones with clotted cream and jam for tea; and drinks parties where sherry is the tipple of choice.

Her characters are simple but endearing and each of these short stories is a story in its own right. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. And always, a happy ever after.

This is a collection I shall treasure and I am so grateful that it arrived just in time for Christmas.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#APlaceLikeHome #RosamundePilcher @HodderBooks

#historicalfiction #romance #shortstories #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Rosamunde Scott was born on 22 September 1924 in Lelant, Cornwall, England, UK, daughter of Helen and Charles Scott, a British commander. Just before her birth her father was posted in Burma, her mother remained in England. She attended St. Clare’s Polwithen and Howell’s School Llandaff before going on to Miss Kerr-Sanders’ Secretarial College. She began writing when she was seven and published her first short story when she was 18. From 1943 through 1946, Pilcher served with the Women’s Naval Service. On 7 December 1946, she married Graham Hope Pilcher, a war hero and jute industry executive who died in March 2009. They moved to Dundee, Scotland, where she remained until her death in 2019. They had two daughters and two sons, and fourteen grandchildren. Her son, Robin Pilcher, is also a novelist.

In 1949, her first book, a romance novel, was published by Mills & Boon, under the pseudonym Jane Fraser. She published a further ten novels under that name. In 1955, she also began writing under her married name Rosamunde Pilcher, by 1965 she her own name to all of her novels. In 1996, her novel Coming Home won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by Romantic Novelists’ Association. She retired from writing in 2000 following publication of Winter Solstice. Two years later, she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of A Place Like Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and published by Hodder &Stoughton. 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, Instagram, and my Goodreads.com

Winter Honeymoon by Jacob M. Appel


Photo by mahdi chaghari on Pexels.com

EXCERPT: Both Minton plots were now occupied – Jinelle’s for three decades, Arnold’s for three days – and Sandy had been office manager at the cemetery for so long that she could locate individual graves for visitors without consulting the logbook. Temporary workers enjoyed quizzing her, flipping open the registry and asking, for example, where Maryann Lewis was interred, but Sandy would shoot back: ‘Do you mean Maryann Lewis died 1977 or Maryann Lewis died 1984?’ When the temps enquired why she had mastered what seemed to them like a morbid parlour trick, or when a feature writer for the local paper delved into Sandy’s motives, she always replied, ‘Busy hands are happy hands and an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop,’ which seemed satisfactory to everyone, although it wasn’t quite clear how memorizing maps of the dead kept one’s hands occupied. It was the sort of response people expected from a homely, church-going spinster. If she had explained her desire to preserve a living memory of the deceased – the way the Jews consecrate the legacy of the holocaust – her inquisitors might think her cuckoo. Instead they thought her upright, straight-shooting, knowledgeable, generous, witty, a lady of considerable spirit, but leading a life as lacklustre as cold porridge. Which it often was.

And now father was dead and Victoria was coming home. Victoria who had done nothing and gotten everything, while Sandy did everything and got nothing. Though you wouldn’t put it to folks that way. – Excerpt taken from The Other Sister

ABOUT ‘WINTER HONEYMOON’: From a widow pursuing an old flame to an architect caught in a collapsing relationship, WINTER HONEYMOON reminds us that life is fleeting but love, in all its forms, is a survivor. These are stories of sometimes quiet, sometimes incredible, and always complex lives that shout at us in their telling. With Jacob Appel’s devilish eye for detail, the stakes grow, the plots turn, and the reader is hit in the head as much as the heart. These are as much affirmations as they are stories, and this is an adventurous and accomplished collection by any measure

MY THOUGHTS: A collection of nine short stories from master storyteller Jacob M. Appel.

While Appel portrays the lives of ordinary people from extraordinary viewpoints, I missed the sense of ridiculousness that he normally infuses his stories with. This collection left me feeling sad, rather than with a smile on my face.

I rated the individual stories as follows:
Winter Honeymoon ⭐⭐⭐.5
The Apprenticeship ⭐⭐.5
The Other Sister ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Before the Storm ⭐⭐⭐
Iceberg Potential ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pay as You Go ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
After Valentino ⭐⭐
Fallout ⭐⭐.5

⭐⭐⭐.2

#JacobMAppel #NetGalley

#contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #historicalfiction #shortstories #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown University, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Columbia University, an M.S. in bioethics from the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College, an M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, an M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, an M.F.A. in playwriting from Queens College, an M.P.H. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He currently practices psychiatry in New York City.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Black Lawrence Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Winter Honeymoon by Jacob M. Appel for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s a beautiful, fine,hot Boxing Day here in New Zealand. Dustin and Luke left for Lake Taupo late this afternoon, and I have been pottering around the house, pausing every now and then to read a story from A Place Like Home, a wonderful collection of short stories by Rosamunde Pilcher published posthumously.

I am almost finished Survive the Night by Riley Sager

An also almost finished listening to Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

I haven’t got anything scheduled for read for review this week other than Twenty Years Later, so I am going to read books picked totally at random from my backlist.

I received three new ARCs this week: The Child I Never Had by Kate Hewitt

Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins ( a widget from the publisher)

And Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan

A short post today as I am in holiday mode, and I am guessing that you all will be too. Happy holidays and enjoy your families and friends. And please, be kind.

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

EXCERPT: Taken from the title story, Five Tuesdays in Winter –

Mitchell’s daughter, who was twelve, accused him of loving his books but hating his customers. He didn’t hate them. He just didn’t like having to chat with them or lead them to very clearly marked sections – if they couldn’t read signs, why were they buying books? – while they complained that nothing was arranged by title. He would have liked to have a bouncer at the door, a man with a rippled neck who would turn people away or quietly remove them when they revealed too much ignorance.

ABOUT ‘FIVE TUESDAYS IN WINTER’: Told in the intimate voices of unique and endearing characters of all ages, these tales explore desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A bookseller’s unspoken love for his employee rises to the surface, a neglected teenage boy finds much-needed nurturing from an unlikely pair of college students hired to housesit, a girl’s loss of innocence at the hands of her employer’s son becomes a catalyst for strength and confidence, and a proud nonagenarian rages helplessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, some even slipping into the surreal, these stories are, above all, about King’s enduring subject of love.

MY THOUGHTS: Every now and then I come across an author who can take the every day, the mundane, and transform it into something beautiful. Lily King is one such author. Her stories, all but one, enchanted me.

The emotions of her characters, their reactions to the situations in which they find themselves, is refreshingly real: from the sulky teenage daughter of recently separated parents to the bookseller who finally recognizes the feelings he has for his assistant, these are people we could know or who could live in our town.

My absolute favourite from this collection is Waiting for Charlie, the story of a grandfather sitting at the bedside of his gravely injured granddaughter, closely followed by Five Tuesdays in Winter, Hotel Seattle, and Mansard. The only story I disliked was The Man at the Door.

1. Creature ⭐⭐⭐⭐
2. Five Tuesdays in Winter ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
3. When in the Dordogne ⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. North Sea ⭐⭐⭐.5
5. Timeline ⭐⭐⭐⭐
6. Hotel Seattle ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
7. Waiting for Charlie ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
8. Mansard ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
9. South ⭐⭐⭐⭐
10. The Man at the Door ⭐⭐

⭐⭐⭐⭐

#FiveTuesdaysinWinter #NetGalley

I: @lilybooks @groveatlantic

T: @lilykingbooks @GroveAtlantic

#contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #familydrama #historicalfiction #romance #shortstories #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. After grad school she took a job as a high school English teacher in Valencia, Spain and began writing her first novel. Eight years, ten more moves all over the US, and many bookstore, restaurant and teaching jobs later, that novel was published.

In 1995 she met a guy named Tyler at her friend Bernardine’s house in Belmont, Mass. They married in 1998. They have two daughters and two dogs and live in Portland, Maine.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 edited by Steph Cha and Alafair Burke

EXCERPT: Taken from Let Her Be by Lisa Unger – We move away, the bell ringing as we exit. Emily is far ahead of me, out in the night. She doesn’t hear him say before the door closes: “They say the brother did it. There was always something off about that boy.”

I pretend I didn’t hear it, don’t let it upset me the way it used to. There were endless rumours then – a beautiful young girl dies by accident, and no one wants to accept that. No one wants to accept the randomness of it all.

Believe me, I get it.

ABOUT ‘THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE 2021’: Steph Cha, a rising star who brings a fresh perspective as series editor, takes the helm of the new TheBest American Mystery and Suspense, with best-selling crime novelist Alafair Burke joining her as the first guest editor.

Beginning with the 2021 volume, the annual short story anthology The Best American Mystery Stories will become The Best American Mystery and Suspense. New series editor Steph Cha and best-selling guest editor Alafair Burke select the best short mystery and suspense fiction of the year.

“Crime writers, forgive the pun, are killing it right now creatively,” writes guest editor Alafair Burke in her introduction. “It was difficult—painful even—to narrow this year’s Best American Mystery and Suspense to only twenty stories.” Spanning from a mediocre spa in Florida, to New York’s gritty East Village, to death row in Alabama, this collection reveals boundless suspense in small, quiet moments, offering startling twists in the least likely of places. From a powerful response to hateful bullying, to a fight for health care, to a gripping desperation to vote, these stories are equal parts shocking, devastating, and enthralling, revealing the tension pulsing through our everyday lives and affirming that mystery and suspense writing is better than ever before.

MY THOUGHTS: There’s a very mixed bag of stories in this year’s collection. There is a small handful of excellent stories: Neighbours by Nikki Dolsan; Green Eyed Monster by Charis Jones; Slow Burner by Laura Lippman; and Let Her Be by Lisa Unger. But the majority of the stories sat in the 2.5 – 3.5 range for me.

My biggest gripe about most of the stories were that they weren’t suspenseful, nor were they a mystery. The ones I have rated highly were either intriguing, or had my heart pounding as I frantically flipped virtual pages.

There were a couple of stories that I thought were totally pointless, and one that seemed to me like a chapter extracted from a book. It seemed that there ought to have been something before it, and definitely something after it. But most were simply average.

Here’s a list of the contents and my ratings:
1. Return to India by Jenny Bhatt ⭐⭐
2. Swaj by Christopher Bolton ⭐⭐⭐.5
3. Neighbours by Nikki Dolson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Mala Suerte by E. Gabriel Flores ⭐⭐⭐
5. Where I Belong by Alison Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐.5
6. With Footnotes and References by Gar Anthony Haywood ⭐⭐⭐.5
7. The Good Thief by Ravi Howard ⭐⭐⭐
8. Everything is Going to be Okay by Gabino Iglesias ⭐⭐⭐
9. Green Eyed Monster by Charis Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
10. Potato Sandwich Days by Preston Lang ⭐⭐
11. Frederick Douglass Elementary by Aya de León ⭐⭐.5
12. Infinity Sky by Kristen Lepionka ⭐⭐.5
13. Slow Burner Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
14. Mr Forble by Joanna Pearson ⭐⭐
15. The Killer by Delia Pitts ⭐⭐.5
16. Wings Beating by Eliot Schrefer ⭐⭐⭐⭐
17. 90 Miles by Alex Segura ⭐⭐
18. Land of Promise by Brian Silverman ⭐⭐.5
19. One Bullet, One Vote by Faye Snowden ⭐⭐⭐.5
20. Let Her Be by Lisa Unger ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Overall rating – ⭐⭐⭐.25

#TheBestAmericanMysteryandSuspense2021 #NetGalley

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #domesticdrama #familydrama #mystery #historicalfiction #murdermystery #privateinvestigator #shortstories #psychologicalthriller #romanticsuspense

THE AUTHORS: STEPH CHA is the author of the Juniper Song mystery series and Your House Will Pay, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and has been nominated for a Young Lions Fiction Award, a Macavity Award, a Lefty Award, a Barry Award, and a Dagger Award, as well as long-listed for the Aspen Prize. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she edited the noir section for almost five years. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Alafair Burke is the New York Times, Edgar-nominated author of fourteen crime novels, including The Ex, The Wife, The Better Sister, and the forthcoming Find Me. She is also the co-author of several novels with Mary Higgins Clark. A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 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

Many Deadly Returns Edited by Martin Edwards

EXCERPT: Taken from Skeleton Crew by Chris Simms

The old Cortina passing under the height barrier at the entrance catches my eye. Hey up, it’s them again. Tweedledum and Tweedledee. A right pair, those two. Quick glance at my watch: six fifty-five. Always the same. Seconds ahead of when the lorry arrives to take the waste-to-energy container away.

As I walk down the ramp to unlock the main gates in readiness for the lorry turning up, their battered old Cortina stops alongside the container for unwanted clothing. One bag goes in, but the flap isn’t able to close completely. Thing must need emptying too.

Here comes the lorry, as I knew it would. ‘Evening Harry,’ I say to the driver as he slows to a halt. ‘How’s things back at base?’

He gives me an awkward glance as I swing the gates open. ‘Same old, same old.’

As he steers the lorry towards the waste-to-energy container, I can see Tweedledum and Tweedledee standing at the railings above it. Even though one’s lost most of his black curls, they must be twins. The same jowly cheeks and squashed out bottom lip. Sad, droopy eyes that are devoid of life. Open-mouth breathers – that’s what Trevor, my ex-policeman friend, calls their type. Both are wearing hideous, cheap-looking leather jackets that end in thick elasticated waistbands. Shapeless jeans tucked into wellington boots that are caked in manure, or something similar.

Every time they reach over to drop a shoebox sized package,into the container, the waistbands of their leather jackets ride up over their fat stomachs. Tugging them back down in unison, they turn to the boot of their car and repeat the process, avoiding eye contact with me all the while. Something’s not right about them, I just know it.

ABOUT ‘MANY DEADLY RETURNS’: Murder Squad, a group of award-winning crime and mystery writers, celebrate their twenty-first birthday with a bang in this criminally good collection of short stories. A dawn swim turns deadly in a brand-new short story starring DCI Vera Stanhope . . . Two bored cell-mates play a game with chilling results . . . A hen night in an isolated cottage brings new meaning to ‘I will survive’ . . . A train traveller teaches a valuable lesson in reading labels . . . A day at the seaside turns stormy for a woman who doesn’t care for foreigners . . . A wealthy retiree makes a new friend who connects her to the Other Side . . . and much much more. Short, sharp and packed with twists, these 21 unputdownable tales showcase Murder Squad’s range and talent throughout the years. So why not treat yourself to a slice of murderously moreish fiction, and join us in wishing the squad ‘Many Deadly Returns’. With stories by Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Margaret Murphy, Chris Simms and Cath Staincliffe, as well as John Baker, Chaz Brenchley and Stuart Pawson.

MY THOUGHTS: I largely enjoyed this collection of stories: some by authors who I have followed for years, some who I have read occasionally, and a small number of whom I was unfamiliar with. There were only two stories that I really disliked.

There are twenty one short stories, one for each year the Murder Squad has been in existence. I have listed them, along with my rating.
Wild Swimming by Ann Cleeves – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Lucky Liam by Martin Edwards – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Scorpion by Cath Staincliffe – ⭐⭐.5
Skeleton Crew by Chris Simms – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Fox and the Hens by Kate Ellis – ⭐⭐.5
An Old Fashioned Poisoning by John Baker – ⭐⭐
Read the Label by Margaret Murphy – ⭐⭐
My Oleander by Kate Ellis – ⭐⭐⭐.5
The Queen of Mystery by Ann Cleeves – ⭐⭐⭐
For Kicks by Chaz Brenchly – ⭐⭐⭐
Two Birds by Cath Staincliffe – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Big End Blues by Margaret Murphy – ⭐⭐⭐.5
Bad Friday by Martin Edwards – ⭐⭐⭐.5
The Passenger by Chris Simms – ⭐⭐⭐
The Confessions of Edward Prime by Kate Ellis – ⭐⭐⭐
Ultra Violet by Stewart Pawson – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Perfect Storm by Cath Staincliffe – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Gaffed by Chris Simms – ⭐⭐⭐
The Other Life by Martin Edwards – ⭐⭐⭐
A Winter’s Tale by Ann Cleeves – ⭐⭐⭐
Still Life by Margaret Murphy – ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Definitely worth keeping on your nightstand for those nights you want something short to read.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#ManyDeadlyReturns #NetGalley

I: @medwardsbooks @severnhouseimprint

T: @medwardsbooks @severnhouse

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #domesticdrama #historicalfiction #murdermystery #shortstories

THE AUTHOR: Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Many Deadly Returns, edited by Martin Edwards. 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 my webpage sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Well, the office never got finished during the week as our new aluminium joinery arrived Monday and I had builders here all week fitting it. I seem to have spent my week cooking morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas, and cleaning up behind them. So now we’re all double glazed and with the stacker doors we installed, we now have a wonderful indoor/outdoor flow. But I do have a lot of stopping and painting ahead of me this week.

It is my cousin’s birthday today. She’s seventy-nine and had her children and grandchildren to lunch today. We are meeting up for coffee and cake tomorrow.

Currently I am reading: A Life Without Water by Marci Bolden. I do love this author. Reading her books is like sitting down with an old friend. A Life Without Water is the first in A Life Without series, and I have the other two lined up right behind it, ready to go.

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 edited by Alafair Burke

and I am listening to The Second Marriage written by Jess Ryder and narrated by Rosamund Hine, which is absolutely delicious!

This week I am planning to read: The Widow by K.L. Slater

My husband was not a monster. No matter what they say…

The day my husband, Michael, stepped in front of a lorry after being questioned by the police, my world fell apart. He was devoted to me and our six-year-old daughter. But they’d connected him to the disappearance of a young mother from our tiny village.

Now I stand at Michael’s funeral, clutching my little girl’s hand, with tears in my eyes as I insist to all our friends that he died an innocent man. Yet the questions have started, and nothing I say will stop them digging for the truth.

But none of them can read the secrets in my heart, or know about the phone I found hidden in his toolbox…

I’m determined that my daughter will not remember her father as a monster. I will erase any hint of wrongdoing in this house whatever the cost.

Because to keep my daughter safe, the last thing I need is for people to start looking at me…

The Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons

My husband was not a monster. No matter what they say…

The day my husband, Michael, stepped in front of a lorry after being questioned by the police, my world fell apart. He was devoted to me and our six-year-old daughter. But they’d connected him to the disappearance of a young mother from our tiny village.

Now I stand at Michael’s funeral, clutching my little girl’s hand, with tears in my eyes as I insist to all our friends that he died an innocent man. Yet the questions have started, and nothing I say will stop them digging for the truth.

But none of them can read the secrets in my heart, or know about the phone I found hidden in his toolbox…

I’m determined that my daughter will not remember her father as a monster. I will erase any hint of wrongdoing in this house whatever the cost.

Because to keep my daughter safe, the last thing I need is for people to start looking at me…

and Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Told in the intimate voices of unique and endearing characters of all ages, these tales explore desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A bookseller’s unspoken love for his employee rises to the surface, a neglected teenage boy finds much-needed nurturing from an unlikely pair of college students hired to housesit, a girl’s loss of innocence at the hands of her employer’s son becomes a catalyst for strength and confidence, and a proud nonagenarian rages helplessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, some even slipping into the surreal, these stories are, above all, about King’s enduring subject of love.

Eight new ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️, one of which I am already listening to: The Second Marriage by Jess Ryder

Other ARCs are: The Mark by Matt Brolly

The Perfect Neighbour by Susanna Beard, which I read during the week and the review for which will be posted this week

The Girl in the Ground by Stacy Green

The House Fire by Rosie Walker

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

and No Less the Devil by Stuart MacBride

My reading schedule for the first six months is already looking quite daunting, and I still have 28 requests pending.

This week I have been in the Cotswolds in England; Menlo Beach, Victoria, Australia; Reading, England; all over England and America in various short story collections; and Houston, Texas. Have we crossed paths anywhere this week?

I have to take my car up to my son’s on Tuesday for a service, so I will get to see Luke and collect him from daycare. I am so looking forward to it. Nothing can replace hugs and cuddles.

Have a wonderful week everyone. ❤📚

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries

EXCERPT: ‘After all,’ said our host, ‘it’s Christmas. Why not let the skeleton out of the bag?’

‘Or the cat out of the closet?’ said the historian, who likes to be precise even about clichés. ‘Are you serious?’

‘Yes,’ said our host. ‘I want to know if it’s safe for anyone to sleep in that little room at the head of the stairs.’

He had just bought the place. This party was in the nature of a house warming; and I had already decided privately that the place needed one. It was a long damp, high-windowed house, hidden behind a high hill in Sussex. The drawing-room, where a group of us had gathered around the fire after dinner, was much too long and much too draughty. It had fine panelling – a rich brown where the firelight was always finding new gleams – and a hundred little reflections trembled down it’s length, as in so many small gloomy mirrors. But it remained draughty.

Of course, we all liked the house. It had the most modern of lighting and heating arrangements, though the plumbing sent ghostly noises and clanks far down into the interior whenever you turned on a tap. But the smell of the past was in it; and you could not get over the idea that somebody was following you about. Now, at the host’s flat mention of a certain possibility, we all looked at our wives.

‘But you never told us,’ said the historian’s wife, rather shocked, ‘you never told us you had a ghost here!’

‘I don’t know that I have,’ replied our host quite seriously. ‘All I have is a bundle of evidence about something queer that once happened. It’s all right; I haven’t put anyone in that little room at the head of the stairs. So we can drop the discussion, if you’d rather.’

‘You know we can’t,’ said the Inspector: who, as a matter of strict fact, is an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He smoked a large cigar, and contemplated ghosts with satisfaction. ‘This is exactly the time and place to hear about it. What is it?’ – Taken from Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson.

ABOUT ‘A SURPRISE FOR CHRISTMAS’: Two dead bodies and a Christmas stocking weaponised. A Postman murdered delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas tree growing over a forgotten homicide. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for the victims of these shocking and often elaborate murders. When there’s magic in the air, sometimes even the facts don’t quite add up and the impossible can happen — and it’s up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and put together an explanation neatly tied up with a bow. Martin Edwards compiles an anthology filled with tales of seasonal suspense where the snow runs red, perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the better collections of short stories that I have read in some time. All are set at Christmas, although Santa only features in one story.

The stories range from extremely short and pithy, to very long and rambling.

I was not particularly impressed by the first two stories, but once I got past them, there were several in a row that I absolutely adored. Overall this is an excellent collection. I have read stories by some of the authors before, other authors were new to me, as were all the stories.

Below is my rating for each story:

1. The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep by Catherine Louisa Pirkis ⭐⭐⭐

2. The Hole in the Wall by G.K. Chesterton ⭐⭐.5

3. Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4. Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5. Dead Man’s Hand by E.R. Punshon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

6. The Christmas Eve Ghost by Ernest Dudley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

7. Dick Whittington’s Cat by Victor Canning ⭐⭐⭐⭐

8. A Surprise for Christmas by Cyril Hare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

9. On A Christmas Day in the Morning by Margery Allingham ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

10. Give Me A Ring by Anthony Gilbert ⭐⭐⭐

11. Father Christmas Comes to Orbins by Julian Symons ⭐⭐⭐.5

12. The Turn-Again Bell by Barry Perowne ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My absolute favourite was the Ngaio Marsh story featuring Inspector Roderick Allyen, followed by the Margery Allingham story, On Christmas Day in the Morning.

If you are looking for a Christmas treat to dip into over the festive season, this is it, or it would make a wonderful gift for the mystery lover in your life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#ASurpriseforChristmasandOtherSeasonalMysteries #NetGalley

I: @medwardsbooks @poisonedpenpress

T: @medwardsbooks @PPPress

#christmasfiction #cosymystery #crime #detectivefiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

THE AUTHOR: Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries compiled by Martin Edwards 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 a very atmospheric piece of Australian fiction, The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. I keep expecting my furniture to be covered in a fine layer of red dust whenever I surface from this read.

I am listening to Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond, which I have only just started, and which received this week.

This week I am planning on making a start on my Christmas reads, with A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale. I have heard such wonderful things about this author and am looking forward to reading this.

When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

And The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope, an author I always enjoy.

I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever? 

I have 9 new ARCs this week, two of them audiobooks, one of which, Trick or Treat, I have started listening to. I still have 31 requests pending.

My new ARCs are: The Maid by Nita Prose

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay which, when I requested it, I was unaware was #13 in a series!

A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald. I also have the previous book in this series, A Body at the Tea Rooms to catch up on.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Put Out to Pasture by Amanda Flower

and the audiobook Touching Strangers by Stacey Madden

Thank you to all my enabler friends who provided fodder for my book list this week. You know who you are. ❤📚

My posting has been a bit irregular this week for a number of reasons starting with the brutal, senseless and cowardly murder of one of my husband’s workmates last weekend while we were away. Antz was an all round good guy and father of six who will be greatly missed. We are grateful that two suspects have been apprehended.

I have also been helping to care for a friend who started chemotherapy this week and who has had a very violent reaction to it.

And we went back into lockdown at midnight on Thursday night. So Friday was spent going through all the lockdown procedures as we have no idea how long this will be for. It doesn’t affect the whole of New Zealand, just from the middle of the North Island, north. Case numbers are continuing to rise daily with an alarming number not connected to current cases. We had our Club’s 75th Jubilee scheduled for the last weekend this month and, depending on the news tomorrow afternoon, are probably going to have to postpone it again. We were meant to have it last year, but the same thing happened. Maybe we should just wait for the 80th now!

I had planned to go to visit my son and grandson this past week, but they went into lockdown a week ahead of us, so I am having to make do with videocalls. Aren’t we lucky to have this technology available to us. I also had a long videocall with my son in Western Australia earlier today. It was lovely to be able to see and talk to him.

So that was my week. I didn’t get all the reading done that I had planned, but that’s life and I am grateful that I and all my loved ones are safe. I hope your week wasn’t as eventful as mine.

Happy reading all. ❤📚

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