Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s probably a bit indulgent of me, but I have lit the fire as it’s a miserable grey, windy day with occasional smatterings of rain. It’s not particularly cold, but looking at the fire makes me feel better.

Currently I am reading The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

and A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristen Harper

both of which are due for publication this coming week.

I am listening to The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp for which I received both digital and audio ARCs this week.

This week I am planning on reading Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

And Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson

Lie #1 was to my new friends, about why I moved here.
Lie #2 was to my husband, about who I was before I met him.
Lie #3 was to myself, that I would get away with what I’ve done.

When I met Seb, it was like everything fell into place. My daughter Evie finally had a proper dad, and I had found the husband of my dreams – and what Seb didn’t know about my past wouldn’t hurt him.

But lately he’s been acting strangely. He won’t look me in the eye, he keeps coming home late and the other day at the school fair I saw him arguing with an unknown woman – the same woman I’ve seen hanging around outside our house.

And just as I start wondering whether I’m not the only one with a secret, Evie goes missing…

Oh, dear! 15 new ARCs this week! I fell off the wagon big time 😂🤣😂🤣❤📚 and I still have 28 pending requests.

My new ARCs are: Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons, DI Kim Stone #15

Why She Left by Leah Mercer

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

The Widow by K.L. Slater

Old Sins by Aline Templeton

Backstory by William L. Myers, Jnr

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs

The Secret in the Wall by Ann Parker

And, of course, The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp, which I have already started.

Yes, well . . . What can I say?

In the past week I have travelled to: Tinworthy, Cornwall; Edinburgh, Scotland; Derbyshire, England; New York City; and New Ross, Ireland.

We are still in lockdown, so this last week was the first time in I don’t know how long that I was able to read and review all the books on my list for the week!

It doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon, so I plan on making the most of it. I still pop into work every second day just to check the chiller temperatures and make sure everything is secure. My home office is almost ready to have the carpet laid, we’re just waiting on a new piece of skirting board to be fitted and painted. Then I plan to paint my library nook. The ceiling will need some work as there are quite a few little holes in it, almost like someone has repeatedly pushed a pool cue into it.

A little later this afternoon I will videocall my son and grandson, whom I had been planning on seeing on Tuesday when I was going to Hamilton to have my hair done. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. I will also call my youngest son in Australia and have a chat with him. I called my older brother in Sydney, Australia during the week as it was his birthday. They have recently come out of lockdown, and he is enjoying being able to get out and about again.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on.❤📚

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

EXCERPT: He took hold of the knob and turned it. The door swung open and the ice-cold air trapped behind it spilled out.

Isak gasped. I blinked; looked again.

Inside the room was nothing but darkness; not even a silvering of moonlight.

And it was empty.

No light was glowing, no flame flickered, nobody was there.

Only the rocking chair moved, rocking forwards and backwards as if whoever had been sitting in it had, a moment earlier, got up and left the room.

ABOUT ‘THE ROOM IN THE ATTIC’: A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

MY THOUGHTS: I became totally absorbed in The Room in the Attic, the first book I have read by author Louise Douglas. She has written an eerily atmospheric book that took me quite by surprise.

I was sitting in my reading chair, totally engrossed, when my cat, who had been asleep across the top of the back, jumped down onto the arm of the chair, then my lap. My husband swears that I shot a good foot into the air and squealed in fright. It’s not often that a book has that effect on me. The cat, Tighe, while disgruntled, was unharmed. My pounding heart took a little longer to recover. My husband is unlikely to let me forget this any time soon.

An old lunatic asylum is the perfect setting for this story; A large, old, gothic building, full of unexplained sounds and dark corners with a tragic history is a fitting backdrop for the story Louise Douglas tells.

The story is told over two timelines: 1903 when All Hallows is still an asylum and takes in a woman who is found unconscious, and a child presumed to be her daughter; and 1993 when Lewis and Isak are pupils there, sleeping in the room directly under the room in the attic where the young child was murdered.

An asylum in the early 1900s was no refuge. There was no treatment for mental illness. Violent or troublesome patients were chained to the walls, and most were heavily sedated. Some of the drugs given actually caused hallucinations. Such places were very easy to be admitted to; few people got to leave other than in a coffin.

All Hallows as a school was not a much more inviting establishment than it was as an asylum. Bullying and corporal punishment are the norm; the staff border on brutal.

The characters in both time frames are beautifully crafted. 1993 – Lewis and Isak, both motherless, have been sent to All Hallows by their fathers basically to get them out of the way. Lewis’s father has remarried and Lewis is not liked nor understood by his new stepmother. Isak’s father simply hasn’t the time for him – he is far too busy in politics to be bothered with a grieving son.
1903 – Nurse Emma is getting on in years and no longer able to carry out the heavier duties of her job. She is still grieving for the loss of her young son many years previously and so she is given the task of caring for the young child who was admitted alongside the unconscious mystery woman. There are no shifts, no relief. It’s a 24/7 task, locked in the attic with only another nurse, Maria, to bring meals, clean linen, and gossip from the wards below.

The tie-in between these two threads is incredibly clever; the resolution immensely satisfying. The writing is haunting and emotionally apt. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheRoomintheAttic #NetGalley

I: @louisedouglas3 @bookandtonic

T: @LouiseDouglas3 @BoldwoodBooks

#fivestarread #gothic #historicalfiction #mystery #paranormal #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Hello and thank you for visiting my profile page. I write contemporary Gothic novels which are usually inspired by places close to where I live in the Mendips, close to Bristol in the UK, or by places I’ve visited, especially Italy and Sicily.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas 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

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. . .

Well, one week down the track and we are still in lockdown. Our 75th Jubilee has been cancelled, and we are waiting to hear tomorrow whether or not we will remain in lockdown. I am not hopeful that we will be coming out any time soon. Still I am enjoying the break and getting caught up on lots of little jobs around the house and garden. On nice days my neighbour and I sit outside on our respective sides of the fence and have coffee and chat.

I bumped into Allison from the library book group in the pharmacy in town yesterday and she said the thing that she misses most is human contact; actually being able to touch someone. She is in her eighties, lives alone and has no family close by. We ended up crossing the street to sit at either end of a park bench in the sun and talking for quite some time. So I hope that, for her sake and the sakes of everyone else in the same position, that we will soon be allowed to move around a little more freely. Though having just glanced at today’s figures, it’s not looking all that likely.

Currently I am reading Oh William by Elizabeth Strout. I love her writing; reading Strout is like sitting down having a ‘remember when’ conversation with a friend.

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas, which is set in an old mental asylum – although they were called lunatic asylums in 1903 which is one of the two time periods in the book. The other is 1993 when it is a boys school.

I am listening to The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine which is certainly an interesting murder-mystery/police procedural.

This week I plan to read A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald

Jilted grooms, sudden deaths, broken hearts and threatening letters. All in a day’s work for super sleuth Kate Palmer!

Nurse Kate Palmer thought the pretty Cornish village of Tinworthy would be the perfect place for a peaceful retirement. She couldn’t have been more wrong! But even she is shocked when she attends a beautiful wedding at St. Pirin’s Church and the handsome groom drops dead in front of her very eyes.

While the rest of the wedding party panics, Kate notices the strange behaviour of the not-so-blushing bride and the posh mother-in-law – and vows to find out the truth behind the poor young man’s sudden demise. Especially when the new detective Charlotte Martin makes it known that she doesn’t want Kate involved – and also shows an interest in Woody Forrest, Kate’s partner in crime-solving.

Undeterred, Kate discovers this isn’t the only wedding to have been sabotaged. A series of peculiar letters contain the clues Kate needs to get to the heart of the matter. But is the mystery letter writer behind the unusual deaths? Or is more than one person responsible for the strange goings on in the seaside village…

As Kate digs deeper, she adds more suspects to her growing list: the world-weary vicar, the unlucky-in-love cleaner and the bride’s former flame. But, as a pair of boots bring Kate closer to the killer, it becomes clear their investigation has placed Woody in danger.

Can Kate solve the murder and save the man she loves at the same time?

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel finds herself entangled in some tricky familial and financial situations that will require all of her kindness, charm, and philosophical expertise to navigate.

Just when Isabel and Jamie finally seem to have some time to connect and unwind, a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request–he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?

As if this weren’t enough to keep Isabel occupied, she’s also spending more time helping her niece Cat at the deli. Cat, perennially unlucky in love, seems to have finally found her match in the leonine Leo. But Isabel is beginning to suspect that Leo might be interested in more than Cat’s charms, namely her access to the family trust. Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve–no more, and no less. 

And I have made up for the excesses of the previous few weeks with only one new ARC this week:

The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt

I still have 27 requests pending, though there are quite a few that have already been published so I presume that I will never see them. I do wish that the publishers would hit the ‘decline’ button though, and remove them from my pending list.

In the past week I have been to Sydney, Australia; Glasgow, Scotland; Sweden; various locations in England in the mid-1900s; and Exeter, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Safe travels and happy reading. ❤📚

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. ❤📚

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Thank you all for your good wishes for our weekend away. It was long drive in unpleasant conditions, and a detour to avoid a road closure due to an accident, but it was worth it to catch up with my brother. We share a passion for wine and I brought a few bottles home from his collection, plus the leftovers from the very delicious white chocolate cheesecake Rachel made for dessert. I am going to have to spend some time on my cross trainer this week as a result.

Currently I am reading 1979 by Val McDermid. I only started this before work this morning, but I am hooked.

I am listening to Our House by Louise Candlish which I am enjoying.

This week I am planning on reading Bad Apples by Will Dean – my second book title featuring apples in as many weeks.

It only takes one…

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

And The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou, Australian fiction by a new author to me.

A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Six new ARCs this week – where did they come from?🤷‍♀️ And, oh dear, 33 requests still pending.

Two titles from Marci Bolden, both read now – A Life Without Regrets (Thank you Susan of susanlovesbooks.wordpress.com )

And Hidden Hearts

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Echo Man by Sam Holland

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

And The Perfect Neighbour by Susanna Beard

I still have two reviews to write, so I had better crack on.

Stay safe. Covid Delta has escaped Auckland and there are cases just an hour up the road. Where my son and grandson live is now off limits to us . . . They are both fine, and Dustin is fully vaccinated so hopefully they will be fine.

Happy reading!❤📚

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

EXCERPT: This is how most cases start. With a bubble of desperate hope and tentative trust. Where things go from here, how Guerline and Emmanuel might view me months from now . . .

Emmanuel walks me back downstairs. He doesn’t speak a word, relying on the rigid set of his shoulders to radiate disapproval.

‘You love Angelique,’ I state softly when we reach the lobby. She’s a good older sister. She looks out for you.’

He glares at me, but I see a bright sheen in his eyes. The pain he’s trying hard not to show.

‘You really done this before?’ he asks roughly.

‘Many times.’

‘How many people have you actually found?’

‘Fourteen.’

He purses his lips, clearly taken aback by that number.

‘Goodnight Emmanuel. And if you think of anything I should know.’ I stick out my hand. This time he takes it.

Then I exit the triple, out into the crisp fall night, where the sun has set. Bright lights wink in the distance. But on this block no streetlights are working. Not the best idea for a lone woman to be walking around after dark, but I hardly have a choice.

I square my shoulders and head briskly back toward Stoney’s, grateful it hadn’t occurred to Emmanuel to ask the next logical question.

Not just how many people I’d found, but how many people I’d found alive.

None.

At least, not yet.

ABOUT: ‘BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED’: 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.

MY THOUGHTS: Can someone please explain to me how and why I have never previously read anything by this author of twenty books? Because I am sure I don’t know. What I do know is – that is about to change!

Before She Disappeared is the first of two books featuring Frankie Elkin, an alcoholic with enough baggage to make a porter shudder. She keeps her demons at bay by focusing her energies on investigating disappearances that are cold cases.
To fund her search, she tends bar, something she is very good at. She regularly attends AA meetings, and has nightmares that gave me the willies just reading about them, never mind having them invade my sleep night after night. And just in case that isn’t enough, she is sharing her accommodation with Piper, an attack cat, and just one more to add to the list resenting Frankie’s intrusion.

Frankie doesn’t endear herself to the police, who resent her involvement and accuse her of many things including trying to rip off the families of the missing. But what Frankie has on her side is a kind and caring heart and the ability to ask the right questions.

Before She Disappeared is a fast paced and gripping story that kept me immersed throughout as the search for one missing girl turns into a search for two missing girls; the second never reported missing by her family or her school. As Frankie slowly builds up a picture of Angelique’s life, little snippets of Frankie’s back story are revealed.

This is a story that has something for everyone. There are two incredibly bright and talented young girls, living in poverty in a crime ridden Boston neighbourhood, determined to rise above their backgrounds and make something of themselves. So there is hope. There are thrills as Frankie is warned off her endeavours to find Angelique and Livia. There are chills and dread as it becomes apparent just how vulnerable these young girls are. There is sadness, and joy. Mystery, crime and suspense. The characters are realistic and beautifully crafted, their stories ones that happen every day. Gardner has taken these stories and written a moving and thrilling book that highlights the plight of the ‘forgotten’ missing – those who come from a background of poverty, from high crime areas where the police have more important issues to deal with than looking for some teenage girl who has probably run of with some boy.

This is no ordinary missing person story!

Gardner’s author notes at the end of the book are worth reading as she explains what inspired her to write Before She Disappeared.

I may be late discovering this author, but I now have a lot of backtitles to catch up on. And Frankie Elkin #2 to look forward to.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#BeforeSheDisappeared #NetGalley

I: @lisagardnerbks @randomhouse

T: @LisaGardnerBks @RandomHouse

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries.

Lisa lives in New Hampshire where she spends her time with an assortment of canine companions. When not writing, she loves to hike, garden, snowshoe and play cribbage.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner 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 . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon everyone!

I have just started reading The Parents by Claire Seeber, a new author to me.

I am 2/3 through listening to Stranded by Sarah Goodwin. The jury is still out. I do see the resemblance to Lord of the Flies, which I never particularly liked, but there is still a third of the book to go, and it sounds like there’s still plenty to happen.

This week I am planning on reading My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt, an author I know I can depend on for an emotionally wrenching read.

I look at my daughter. My darling girl. I remember her tiny hand in mine, her first smile. I recall her tears when she’d tumble over, healed instantly with a band-aid and a little kiss. I have to keep her safe. Even if it means someone else gets hurt…

In the pretty, privileged college town of Milford, New Hampshire, everyone is friendly, everything is safe. And on this cold autumn day, as red and yellow leaves begin to fall from the trees, and everyone wraps up for the first time, it would be easy to believe nothing bad could ever happen here.

Until a screech of tires is heard, a thud, a child’s scream. The crash that sees Jenna’s six-year-old daughter Amy Rose being hit by a car driven by seventeen-year-old Maddie.

Maddie’s mother, Ellen—a college professor with a warm, approachable reputation—insists it must have been an accident. Her daughter is always safe on the road—and she’s vulnerable herself.

But as Amy Rose lies unconscious in hospital, the town begins to take sides. With Ellen, who just wants to defend her daughter. Or with Jenna, a single mother with a past, whose child hovers between life and death…

The truth is that both mothers have secrets they’re trying to keep. And, with Amy Rose’s life hanging in the balance, one of them will stop at nothing to protect the person she loves—her daughter.

And Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer, another new author to me.

Eve has been a partner in a Wallaby Bay fishing fleet as long as she can remember. Now they want her to sell – but what would her life be without work? She lives alone, her role on the town committee has been spiked by malicious gossip and she is incapacitated after surgery. For the first time in her life she feels weak, vulnerable – old.

When her troubled god-daughter Julia arrives at Wallaby Bay, she seems to offer Eve a reprieve from her own concerns. But there is no such thing as plain sailing. Eve has another house guest, the abrasive Lucy, who is helping her recuperate and does not look kindly on Julia’s desire for Eve’s attention.

But Lucy, too, has demons to battle and as each woman struggles to overcome their loss of place in the world, they start to realise that there may be more that holds them together, than keeps them apart.

But will these birds of feather truly be able to reinvent what family means? Or will the secrets and hurts of the past shatter their precarious hold on their new lives … and each other? 

During the past week I have been: Stranded on Buidseach Island off the Scottish Coast; in the poverty stricken suburb of Mattapan, Boston; to the tea shop in Charon’s Crossing, wherever that may be; and I am currently in the football obsessed village of Tenderton, Kent. Have we crossed paths this week? Where have you been?

I have eight new ARCs this week: At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski, an English born Australian author I love.

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

A Life Without Water by Marci Bolden which I was declined for back in 2019 when it was first released. I found it as ‘read now’ when I was browsing the Netgalley shelves.

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou, another Australian author also new to me.

A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale, an author I have been wanting to read for some time.

Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson, an author I enjoy.

And finally, The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

and I still have 29 requests pending. 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️❤📚

The Unheard by Nicci French

EXCERPT: People say you can’t die in your dreams but last night I felt I was going to die. I was falling, like she fell, and it was just before I hit the concrete – dark, rushing up at me – that I woke, gasping, sweating. I hadn’t got away. It was happening again.

ABOUT ‘THE UNHEARD’: 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.

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, who to trust? Does Tess have something to worry about in Poppy’s behaviour, or is she becoming increasingly neurotic and seeing danger where it doesn’t exist?

The Nicci French team has written a gripping psychological thriller that messed with my mind. It was like walking on quicksand – the ground shifting beneath my feet as I first suspected one person, then another, and even Tess herself. But suspected them of what? Because that’s the question. What, if anything, has happened?

Poppy has said a few rude words. And, ‘He did kill. Kill and kill and kill.’ And wet the bed. And drawn a disturbing picture. So, yes, as a mother I too would have been concerned and taken my child to the doctor to be checked out. I would have watched carefully the people my child came into contact with. I would have been suspicious and protective. But Tess takes it to a whole new level . . .

The entire story is told by Tess. We share her worries, her fears, her suspicions, her anger as she finds out the truth about . . . let’s just say, people she thought she knew and could trust. We feel her frustration as people, including me, begin to feel that she has lost the plot and gone completely overboard. But Tess is doggedly determined, to the point of being obsessive, to find out who is behind the changes in her daughter, who is terrifying her. Some of the things Tess does are completely over the top, but make for brilliant reading.

The Unheard is a brilliantly plotted, intriguing, twisty psychological thriller that keeps the reader off balance throughout.

Narrator Olivia Vinall was a delight to listen to, and I will be watching for her narrations in future.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheUnheardoliviavinallniccifrenchaudiobookswfhowes #NetGalley

I: #niccifrench @wfhowes

T: @FrenchNicci @WFHowes

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #murdermystery #psychologicalthriller #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Nicci Gerrard was born in June 1958 in Worcestershire. After graduating with a first class honours degree in English Literature from Oxford University, she began her first job, working with emotionally disturbed children in Sheffield.

Sean French was born in May 1959 in Bristol, to a British father and Swedish mother. He too studied English Literature at Oxford University at the same time as Nicci, also graduating with a first class degree, but their paths didn’t cross until 1990.

Sean and Nicci were married in Hackney in October 1990. Their daughters, Hadley and Molly, were born in 1991 and 1993.

In 1995 Nicci and Sean began work on their first joint novel and adopted the pseudonym of Nicci French. Nicci and Sean also continue to write separately.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to W.F. Howes Ltd via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Unheard by Nicci French 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. ❤📚