The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine

EXCERPT: There was a set of shoeprints in the otherwise pristine snow, and Robert was sure that they hadn’t been there earlier. They were coming from the road and leading over to the steps on the right side of the house, the ones that descended to the cellar door. And yet there were no prints going in the opposite direction.

It puzzled him because the cellar door was always locked and there was only one set of keys, which hung from a hook in the kitchen. What’s more, Mary rarely ventured down there because she’d convinced herself many years ago that it was haunted.

He tightened his grip on the bag and went to investigate. What he saw made him frown further.

The shoeprints went down the steps and stopped in front of the door, which suggested that whoever had gone in there hadn’t yet come out.

But who could it be?

He was about to go down and check when the sound of raised voices came from inside the house. They were loud enough to cause a blast of alarm to shoot through him.

Instinct told him that whatever was going on in the house had to be more important than what might be happening in the cellar, so he turned sharply on his heels and rushed towards the front door.

Just as he reached it, the shouting was drowned out by a high-pitched scream that sent his pulse racing.

ABOUT ‘THE KILLER IN THE SNOW’: The first fall of snow can be fatal…

A year has passed since DI James Walker cracked his biggest case yet, and he’s hoping for peace and quiet this festive season.

But across the fells, a local farmer returns home on Christmas Eve to find footsteps in the fresh snow that lead down to his unused basement – and no footsteps leading away. Days later, his body is found, alongside those of his wife and daughter.

Without a neighbour for miles, there are no witnesses and little evidence. And the crime scene has strange echoes of another terrible murder committed at the farmhouse, twenty years earlier…

James knows that to catch this killer, he needs to solve a case that has long since gone cold…

MY THOUGHTS: A good plot, but I found the writing style somewhat dry and lacking suspense. While I didn’t struggle to get through my listen/read, neither did I pick it up every chance I got. And that’s always a tell.

It was difficult to feel any connection with the characters. They all felt very formal and stiff, as was the dialogue. Other than DC Jess Abbott and James’ wife Annie, the women in this story are all portrayed as rather weak characters or mentally unbalanced.

I enjoyed the mystery being linked to what had happened on the farm twenty four years earlier, even though it was pretty apparent what had happened. It was the ‘how’ that kept me reading.

Initially there are a handful of suspects for the current killings and I did enjoy the resolution. I just wish that it had been a bit less plodding and a lot more suspenseful. I also think that the inclusion of a gangster ‘out to get James’ was unnecessary and distracted from the main storyline. It just didn’t seem to ‘fit’, and served no useful purpose.

I enjoyed the narration of Sid Sagar, but overall this was only an okay, but totally forgettable read.

⭐⭐.6

#TheKillerintheSnow #NetGalley

I: #alexpineauthor @avonbooksuk @harperaudio

T: #alexpineauthor @BooksAvon @HarperAudio

#audiobook #christmasfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #detectivefiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Alex Pine was born and raised on a council estate in South London and left school at sixteen. Before long, he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him all over the world – many of the stories he covered were crime-related. Among his favourite hobbies are hiking and water-based activities, so he and his family have spent lots of holidays in the Lake District. He now lives with his wife on a marina close to the New Forest on the South Coast – providing him with the best of both worlds! Alex Pine is the pseudonym of a bestselling author who has also written books under the names Jaime Raven, James Raven and JP Carter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK for providing the digital ARC, and Harper Collins UK audio for providing the audio ARC of The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine 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 . . .

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.❤📚

A Body at the Tea Rooms

By Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: In the medical centre Kate went about her duties, without comment, as all around everyone voiced their theories about Locker Man’s identity. News traveled fast in a small place like this.

‘Your sister must have got the shock of her life when she found that body,’ Sue said, with a delighted shiver, as she and Kate stood chatting to Denise at the reception desk later.

‘Yes, she did,’ Kate agreed.

‘But how come Polly Lock never found it then?’ Denise asked. ‘She must have had that place a good ten years. And Larry had it before that. It’s funny that Angie was the one to find it…’

Kate was aware that Angie could be a suspect in the minds of the villagers who had no idea how old the body was. After all, she was a newcomer to the village and not everyone knew her very well.

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT THE TEA ROOMS’: Meet Kate Palmer! A semi-retired nurse with a sweet tooth for cake and a talent for solving crimes.

Kate Palmer is most disappointed when renovations at her sister Angie’s new tea rooms are derailed after a body is discovered in the cellar. She was looking forward to clotted cream teas with a seaside view. Instead she has another murder mystery to solve…

If the village gossip is to be believed, the unfortunate man was connected to the wealthy Hedgefield family. Kate is reluctant to get caught up in the investigation but a curious card in the victim’s jacket pocket sparks her interest. Not to mention the ridiculous rumour Angie is somehow involved! Keen to clear her sister’s name so she can finally eat cake in the charming tea rooms, Kate teams up with handsome retired Detective ‘Woody’ Forrest to untangle the baffling case.

After quizzing the locals over copious cups of tea, Kate begins to realise the Hedgefields, who live in a grand mansion and own half the village, are not as perfect as they make out. They’re hiding a long-buried family secret and plenty of people have a grudge against them, including a number of their ex-employees.

But who could have murdered a member of Lower Tinworthy’s most enviable family? Was it the old gardener? The seemingly sweet cook? Or the bitter maid?

Just as she inches closer to the truth, Angie goes missing. Does amateur sleuth Kate have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary puzzle and save her sister at the same time?

MY THOUGHTS: A Body at the Tea Rooms is the first book I have read by Dee MacDonald, but it’s not the last. I enjoyed this so much I have already begun the next in this series, A Body at the Altar.

I am really enjoying reading books about older characters, and by older I mean not in their first flush of youth, who still have a zest for life and a penchant for ‘sticking their noses in’. Kate Palmer is a fifty-nine year old semi-retired nurse, dubbed ‘Cornwall’s Miss Marple’ after she has become involved in solving a series of murders. Her partner is Abraham Lincoln Forrest, mostly known as ‘Woody’ except when Kate is trying to make a point, a retired detective. Kate and her sixty-one year old sister Angie live in Lavender Cottage, a property they purchased together. Angie has been what is known as ‘a free spirit’, but seems to be setting down and is working on opening a café/bistro with Fergus, an Irishman she has become attached to.

It’s in the cellar of the old building that Angie is renovating that a body is discovered, and Kate decides to get involved in the investigation as some of the locals are blaming Angie. No one knows whose the body is, but a DNA test provides some interesting information.

I love both the characters and the plot development in A Body at the Tea Rooms. Kate and Woody have an interesting relationship. While Woody is rather proud of Kate’s investigative prowess, he is also concerned about the danger she puts herself in and from time to time tries, unsuccessfully, to rein in her endeavours and this does lead
to the occasional discord between them. I love Kate’s thought processes, her penchant for making lists, and the numerous questions she inevitably comes up with. She and Angie row quite often, but love each other fiercely.

Although I guessed most of the twists and the eventual outcome by playing ‘if I were the author, what would I plot?’, I absolutely loved A Body at the Tea Rooms. It was great fun solving the murder, and I am enjoying getting to know the many and varied residents of Tinworthy who will, no doubt, appear in other stories to come.

Although A Body at the Tea Rooms is #3 in the Kate Palmer series, it is easily read as a stand-alone. Personally, I intend to get my hands on #s 1 and 2 in the series so I can discover how Kate and Woody meet and begin their relationship.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ABodyattheTeaRooms #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery

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

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

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at the Tea Rooms 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

Oh William! By Elizabeth Strout

EXCERPT: As we drove, William suddenly made a noise that was almost like a laugh. I turned my face toward him. ‘What?’ I said.

He kept looking straight ahead at the road. ‘Do you know one time when you and I had a dinner party – well, it wouldn’t have been called a dinner party, you never really knew how to pull off a real dinner party – but we had some friends over, and long after they had gone home, way after I had gone to bed, but then I came downstairs and found you in the dining room -‘ William turned his head to glance at me. ‘And I saw -‘ Again he gave an abrupt sound of almost laughter, and he looked straight ahead again. ‘And I saw you bending down and kissing the tulips that were there on the table. You were kissing them, Lucy. Each tulip. God, it was weird.’

I looked out the window of my side of the car, and my face became very warm.

‘You’re a strange one, Lucy,’ he said after a moment. And that was that.

ABOUT ‘OH WILLIAM!’: Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband – and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante. Recalling their college years, the birth of their
daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people.

MY THOUGHTS: After having read the first two Amgash books, My Name is Lucy Barton, and Anything is Possible, which focussed on Lucy’s earlier life – i.e. leading up to 63, and on people she has known at various times in her life, respectively – I was excited to pick up Oh William!, which looks at her current relationship with her ex-husband, father of her two daughters, and sometimes friend, William.

Lucy is still grieving the loss of her second husband, David, who, I feel obliged to point out, was a much nicer man than William. William liked to belittle Lucy, mainly I think to cover his own feelings of inadequacy, the reasons for which come to light in Oh William!

Sometimes, in my head, I am very much like Lucy Barton. I try not to be, although I love Lucy to bits, but I am. And that is the thing about Strout’s characters – we are able to recognise bits of ourselves in them. But the point that I am getting to is that unlike Lucy, I would have never agreed to go on a trip with my ex-husband, not even with the temptation of finding a half sister he never knew he had, and discovering more about the first marriage of his mother, another unknown. Okay, I might have been momentarily tempted, but I would never have gone. But then William and Lucy have a totally different relationship to mine which is completely non-existent and will remain that way.

We learn a lot about William which, I guess, is the whole point of this book. He is exposed, warts and all, and I was left liking him even less than I had originally.

Oh William! is, like it’s two predecessors, a book that I completely lost myself in. I hope that it is not the last in the series. I want to know if Chrissy will succeed in becoming pregnant and carry to full term. I want to know Lucy in old age. I am not yet ready to say goodbye to this family.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#OhWilliam #NetGalley

I: #elizabethstrout @penguinukbooks

T: @LizStrout @PenguinUKBooks

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin General UK – Fig Tree via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Oh William! 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 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

Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond

EXCERPT: An engine rumbled outside the window and he rushed to look; he would have to make a run for it if it was them back from their holiday. A white van had turned into the street and was pulling into Amanda’s drive – looked like a couple of builders. He couldn’t carry on trashing the place while they were parked there. He studied the two men in the front seat for a moment before noticing the gun on the dashboard. The hairs on the back of Jason’s neck stood on end when he realised they were watching the boy who was still cycling up and down the street on his own. What he had assumed were beanies revealed themselves to be balaclavas as the men pulled them down over their faces.

Should he call the police? That would land him in a whole heap of shit. He couldn’t just let this happen though. He picked up a sweater off the floor and dialled triple nine before wrapping the sweater around the mouthpiece in an attempt to conceal his voice. He knew his phone was untraceable. It was something his brother made him promise: always use pay-as-you-go phones with disposable SIMs; don’t let anyone trace where you are. That’s how they’d got Luke on his GBH charge – by finding his location through his phone.

As Jason spoke to dispatch, refusing to answer the questions that might give him away, the engine on the van started again, one man exiting the passenger side and sliding open the back door. Jason felt powerless as the boy cycled towards the van. He knew what was going to happen next, but it still made him sick to his stomach to watch as the scene played out before his eyes.

‘Please, you have to hurry. They’ve taken him, the little boy across the road. They grabbed him and put him in the back of a white van. Forty-six Golding Road.’

ABOUT ‘TRICK OR TREAT’: A stranger. A child. A liar who will stop at nothing…

When six-year-old Marcus is taken from outside his house on Halloween, there is only one witness: a frightened teen determined to keep himself hidden.

After an anonymous tip off, Detective Imogen Grey is called out to an expensive Exeter street, caught up in the buzz of the holiday. But when the police visit Marcus’s house, his parents claim everything is fine. Imogen is sure there is more to the family than meets the eye. But just how much more, she could never have imagined…

What has happened to little Marcus? And will he ever come home?

MY THOUGHTS: A rather mundane police procedural that focuses more on DS Imogen Grey’s life with her ex-copper boyfriend, Adrian, than it does on the abduction of young Marcus Carlyle.

There were a lot of things in Trick or Treat that just didn’t add up for me, the major one being that the person behind the kidnapping had previously been in jail, and so you would think that the fingerprints would be on record, and had they taken fingerprints for elimination purposes, they would have discovered an anomaly.

The other thing that really irritated me was the author’s constant use of ‘said’. Sara said. Imogen said. Adrian said. Peter said . . . It was really grating on my nerves by the end.

There were several things that weren’t explained to my satisfaction, but going into them would give away spoilers, so I am not prepared to do that.

I seriously considered not finishing this once or twice. I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, even Sara. This book could have been greatly improved by hearing from Marcus; his view of what was happening to him would have made the story far more interesting. We have absolutely no idea what happened to him while in captivity.

A lacklustre narration didn’t help either. The narrator has a limited range of tone, and certainly wasn’t expressive. She could have been reading the telephone directory.

Trick or Treat was a disappointing experience for me.

⭐⭐.4

#TrickorTreat #NetGalley

I: @katerinadiamondauthor @harpercollinsuk

T: @TheVenomousPen @HarperCollinsUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Katerina Diamond was born in Weston in the seventies, and her parents owned a fish and chip shop in the Greek community. She moved to Thessaloniki in Greece and attended Greek school where she learnt Greek in just 6 months. After her parents divorce, they relocated to Devon. After school, and working in her uncles fish and chip shop, she went (briefly) to university at Derby, where she met her husband and had two children. Katerina now lives in the East Kent Coast with her husband and children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK Audio for providing an audio ARC of Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond 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 Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale

EXCERPT: A tiny gasp from across the room pricked Mia’s consciousness, but her eyes felt as though they were cemented shut so she couldn’t view the source. She took in a long steady breath, the faint spice of it calming, the sounds around her becoming clear. The coastal wind howled outside, rattling the latch on the screen door of the lighthouse the way it always had, and her mother’s faint whisper floated over her, too quiet to decipher. She wriggled comfortably, only then feeling a foreign hand under her own. Trying to swallow, she was aware of her dry mouth.

The end of the evening came back to her in snippets – talking with Will on the sofa, him making her giggle with a little joke about the snow angels despite the fact that she could hardly keep her eyes open, and then laying her head back on the sofa just to rest for a second . . . Oh, no. She’d asked Will to the Christmas party. Thank goodness he’d declined. What had she been thinking? All she needed was to have to try to balance entertaining Will with being a fake wife to Milo for everyone’s benefit. And right now she was –

Her eyes flew open and she froze. Will’s relaxed lips breathing quietly against her, as he slept. She was suddenly aware of the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, his hand on his chest, her fingers over his. It was intoxicating while simultaneously mortifying.

Carefully she engaged her core muscles and kept them tight to lift herself up and away from his body without having to push off of him. Their legs were intertwined, so she put a hand on the back of the sofa to steady the first leg as she hoisted it off him, planting one foot on the floor. With one leg to go, she hovered over him and his eyes flicked open, meeting hers. The lips that had been slack with sleep turned upward just slightly as he took her in.

‘Morning,’ he said.

Riley coughed conspicuously from the kitchen, and Mia knew they were probably being watched. Will heard it too and his smile spread wider.

But while Mia grinned back, internally she was scolding herself for letting this happen. She’d just spent the night draped across the real estate agent. Have mercy.

ABOUT ‘A LIGHTHOUSE CHRISTMAS’: 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?

MY THOUGHTS: I was so excited to finally be approved for an ARC of a Jenny Hale book, and every atom of that excitement was justified. There is a little bit of everything in A Lighthouse Christmas – family drama, mystery, romance.

It’s pretty clear from the outset just where the author is taking us, but the journey to get there is fun and heartwarming. There are plenty of complications along the way to keep the reader interested, but I am not going to give any of those away.

The setting is beautiful – a windswept lighthouse and winter snow. The characters are so well depicted that I felt I could just walk right into their lives with them. Three heartbroken women mourning the loss of a much loved mother and grandmother, one of the women also facing the demise of her marriage. One handsome real estate agent, also in mourning. His sister, owner of the failing local bakery, and her gorgeous little son, Felix. I just wanted to hug all these characters. But of course, there must always be a fly in the ointment, and that is where our mystery characters come in. They turn the whole situation upside down and disrupt all the carefully laid plans.

The descriptions of the Christmas decorations were magical and inspirational. I would love to have seen the barn in its full glory. And the food . . . I just had to make a batch of snickerdoodles to nibble on while I read. Jenny Hale, if my work trousers don’t fit tomorrow, I’m blaming you!

A Lighthouse Christmas is a delightful and enjoyable read. Jenny Hale is on my ‘read everything by this author that I can find’ list.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ALighthouseChristmas #NetGalley

I: @jhaleauthor @bookouture

T: @jhaleauthor @Bookouture

#christmasread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Jenny Hale is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic contemporary fiction. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Movie Guide Epiphany Award Winner Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses are Hallmark Channel original movies. Her stories are chock-full of feel-good romance and overflowing with warm settings, great friends, and family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale 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. ❤📚

The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

EXCERPT: His teachers call him ‘spirited’, or ‘full of energy’, sometimes ‘boisterous’. They have a lot of different words for what he really is in class, which is disruptive and occasionally rude. Too disruptive? Too rude? She feels like there’s some sort of memo she missed on raising a child. The other mothers at the school gates seem to know exactly what to do in any situation. She watches them, listens to them, while she waits for Riley, her ears tuned for exchanges of information she’s reluctant to ask for. They would be friendly enough, she supposes, if she just stepped forward and said ‘Hello,’ but she worries about saying the wrong thing, about giving too much away.

She can see the way they look at her when Riley calls her ‘Mum’. ‘My goodness,’ his teacher from last year said on parent-teacher night, ‘and how old-‘

‘Twenty,’ Beverley replied before the teacher could finish the question. ‘I was twenty when I had him.’ It’s a lie. She was actually only eighteen, but people tend to look at teenage mothers a certain way, make an assessment a certain way. A single teenage mother is met with pursed lips and narrowed eyes. It’s why she works so hard at getting everything right, at making sure Riley arrives at school with a full lunch box and a clean uniform every day. She makes sure that he never leaves homework undone and that he’s always got his hat and sports kit on sports days. Things that other mothers brush off, like forgetting to send in money for an excursion, bother Beverley because they make her feel that she’s falling. She cannot fail at this.

ABOUT ‘THE MOTHER’S FAULT’: 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?

MY THOUGHTS: A quick, easy and enjoyable read that certainly won’t overwork the little grey cells, although there was one twist that I was not expecting.

The story is told mainly by Beverley, her son Riley, and in latter parts, an unknown narrator. There is plenty of misdirection to keep the reader on their toes, and although the perpetrator is decidedly ‘unbalanced’ I am not convinced that this is a true psychological thriller. Personally I would have liked a little more subtle manipulation to ramp up the tension and a little less of the soap-opera style drama.

Sam and his dog ‘Scotty’ were my favourite characters.

I know that I can always rely on Nicole Trope for a good read, and The Mother’s Fault definitely doesn’t disappoint, although I do feel that it would have been better titled ‘The Mother’s Lie.’ This is a book that will fly off the shelves.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#TheMothersFault #Bookouture

I: @nicoletropeauthor @bookouture

T: @nicoletrope @Bookouture

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth

THE AUTHOR: Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.
The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope 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