Review of ‘A Fatal Night’ by Faith Martin

‘A Fatal Night’ by Faith Martin is the second book I’ve read in this series, and I’m growing very fond of WPC Trudy Loveday and Coroner Dr Clement Ryder. The young police officer and elderly county coroner make an interesting pair, and their methods and investigations make for fascinating reading. This story is set over Christmas and New Year of 1962, when a ‘big freeze’ stopped Britain in its tracks. Snow and ice blocked the roads and many died. And it is one of these deaths that Trudy and Clement seek to investigate. As with any investigation, lies abound, and it is up to them to get to the truth and find the killer. 

I really like the dynamic between the two characters. The blend of youthful enthusiasm and a determination to learn, with the experience and wisdom of someone who has seen it all, really works. The setting of 1960s Oxford is also very appealing, as it gives an insight into the time, as well as the problems faced by a young woman in the police force back then. I enjoyed the story immensely, and it is exactly the kind of cosy mystery I want to read in these times. However unsettled it may seem for us in real life,  you can always count on a cosy mystery. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Change of Heart’ by Clare Lydon

‘Change of Heart’ by Clare Lydon has ALL the feels.  The Scottish Highlands, is the perfect setting for this heart-warming romance. Erin runs a decorating business with her friend Morag in Edinburgh. Her parent’s wedding anniversary means a big party in the Highlands, and she doesn’t want to turn up alone. So she hires a fake girlfriend. Steph, a struggling actress, takes on the role.  It’ll be strictly business and they’ll part ways at the end of the weekend. What could go wrong? A growing attraction and family secrets throw a spanner in the works. Nothing is ever simple.

I loved Erin and Steph. As with all of Clare Lydon’s characters, I get the feeling we would be friends. They’re lovely women and perfect for each other. Their story had some unusual and very surprising twists and I found myself so invested in them. The wider story was extremely emotional and beautifully told. When I realised where it was going, it was a shock, but as with everything Clare Lydon writes, it was so well thought out and pulled me in.  And with some added comedic moments and hot and steamy interludes, who could ask for more? I adored it. 

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘Murder at the Wedding’ by Helena Dixon

Murder at the Wedding by Helena Dixon

What murder mystery fan doesn’t love a country house murder? ‘Murder At The Wedding’ ticks all the boxes and more. 

Kitty Underhay is invited to the wedding of her cousin Lucy, and with her maid Alice, travels to Yorkshire for the event. Talk of a ghost in the country pile intrigues her, but it seems there’s more danger than she thinks lurking in the wings. When events turn deadly Kitty steps in. With the help of her private investigator beau, Matt, she aims to find out who is behind the strange goings-on before anyone else is hurt. 

I enjoyed the writing style and the atmospheric setting of the story. The introductions of the various characters in the house were wonderfully descriptive and made me feel as if I was back in the past with them. 

Teasing out the motives worked well too,  and the insight into life for women of the era was fascinating. We saw how Kitty was underestimated by the police, but not by her family and especially not by Matt. I thoroughly enjoyed this perfect cosy mystery.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ by John Dickson Carr

Till Death do us part by John Dickson carr

‘Till Death Do Us Part’ is a fiendishly clever locked room mystery by stalwart of the Detection Club, John Dickson Carr.

Dick Markham is a crime writer, about to announce his engagement to the beautiful, but enigmatic Lesley Grant. When she accidentally shoots a fortune-teller at the village fayre, she is distraught. Things go from bad to worse when the man later dies – and Lesley comes under suspicion. Not just for his death, but as a serial poisoner.  Who is Dick to believe? When Dr Gideon Fell and Superintendent Hadley enter the scene clues point in a multitude of directions. And Dick is nowhere nearer to solving the mystery.

This book has a beautiful cover, based on a railway poster of the time, taking the reader on a journey to the past. To an England of picture-perfect rural villages and recognisable characters. Current Detection Club President Martin Edwards provides a fascinating and informative introduction. I relish Edwards’ knowledgeable pieces in the British Library Crime Classics series, as they give an insight into the author and into his inspirations. 

In common with Dick Markham I didn’t know who to believe. Just when I thought I had it worked out, the author turned the story on its head. It was a cleverly constructed story, teasing out the clues, making the reader do a double take more than once. Fell and Hadley, and their significant brain power, tried to see past the lies and subterfuge. Past the construct put before them. But by whom? I adore a good puzzle and this was a superlative one. It was beautifully wrapped up and made for a  highly satisfying mystery. 

I was given this book for review. 

Review of ‘Warm Pearls and Paper Cranes by E.V. Bancroft

‘Warm Pearls and Paper Cranes’  is the wonderful debut novel from E.V. Bancroft. It’s a story told over two time periods, with two couples. Starting in  pre-war 1939, Maud and Bea find love at a time when lesbian relationships were completely taboo. How can they find a way to be together when the world is against them?  In the present day Hannah may be open in some areas of her life, but convincing the woman she loves, Suki, to do the same is not easy. It seems prejudices remain and they can be hard to push back against. Maud and Bea are now old and forced apart in different nursing homes. As the two stories intertwine, the women must fight those who would keep them apart – and fight their own pre-conceived ideas. 

 I was surprised this was a first novel, as the storytelling was so skilful and appeared effortless. The prose flowed beautifully and the characters were believable and brought truth to the story. It was the most compelling story of love, of fighting to be see and heard. I went through so many emotions reading these two love stories, each with problems to be overcome. The writing was powerful, emotional and exceptional. 

I left it feeling happy and joyful. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘We Are All Liars’ by Carys Jones

The Fierce Five have been friends since early childhood. Once close, they have drifted apart as adult life takes hold. In an attempt to rekindle the feelings they all had for each other, Gail invites the women to her cabin in the Scottish Highlands for the weekend. Will they find that friendship again, or will they discover that the lies we all tell each other are too big and too serious?

‘We Are All Liars’ is exhilarating, terrifying and very, very, clever. Told from the point of view of Allie, we see the lives the women lead now and how that has affected their friendship group. But the past cannot and will not be forgotten. There are secrets and lies that have remained hidden for twenty years, but once the women are together it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them from surfacing. I was shocked and surprised and could never have guessed where it was all going. Carys Jones took me on a rollercoaster ride, one I could not get off until the brilliantly conceived twist was revealed. What an amazing story.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Tell Tale’ by Clare Ashton

‘The Tell Tale’ by Clare Ashton is outstanding. My book of the year by a long way. Lady Sophie Melling is lady of the manor, but the men of the village will not accept it. Her former schoolfriend Beth Harris is back in the village after years away. Like most people she has a secret, and when nasty notes begin appearing it looks like her secret may be revealed to all. Who is leaving the notes? And what does it have to do with unexplained events twenty years ago? As the tension builds, a sense of foreboding clings to the village and its inhabitants. 

This is the best novel Clare Ashton has written. My jaw dropped again and again as the shocking realities were revealed. The exquisite writing, beautiful descriptions, and insight into the welsh language and people had me mesmerised. I could feel the fear of the villagers as they received their vicious notes, and the all-pervading abuse of power by certain men of the village. But I could also feel the growing confidence of the women as they tried to be true to themselves and fight against it all. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. If you only read one book this year, let it be ‘The Tell Tale’. You will not regret it.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘A Lesson in Murder’ by Verity Bright

‘A Lesson in Murder’ by Verity Bright is Part of a series, but there’s no need to have read them in advance as this works as a stand-alone too.

Lady Eleanor Swift is  back at her old school, St Mary’s,  to give a speech. Her memories were not all good by any means, so being back stirs up some difficult feelings.

She’s a very independent woman for the time and not everyone appreciates that. When the death occurs of her favourite old teacher,  Eleanor is  pulled into the mystery, by virtue of being there, and because of her association with Chief Inspector Seldon in previous adventures. When he turns up to deal with the situation he asks her to go undercover as a house mistress.  Will they be able to find out the identity of the killer in time? Eleanor will have to use all of her know-how about the school to solve the mystery before it’s too late.

I liked the references to her time there and to previous mysteries. The book had a comfortable, cosy vibe, and the reader is made to feel part of it all. Being set in the Golden Age of Crime in the 1920s makes it all the more exciting. I also liked the dynamic between Eleanor , Clifford her butler, and Chief Inspector Seldon. They make a great  team. But most of all, I loved the boarding school setting, partly because I read so many books set in them when I was a child. It felt familiar. Verity Bright succeeded in bringing back those memories and adding her own twist with an engrossing mystery. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Love At Leighton Lake’ by Samantha Hicks

‘Love at Leighton Lake’ is a lovely romance with two very endearing characters. Tally returns to the place of her childhood holidays when she needs time to recover from a serious injury at work. There she becomes reacquainted with Caitlyn, the daughter of the owner. Caitlyn has continued to live there, helping her mother and swimming in the lake everyday. But as they spend time together it becomes apparent that secrets have been kept from Caitlyn. Together they aim to find out the truth.

I loved the Devon setting and the relaxing vibe that came from spending time there. I could see why Tally wanted to be there, and why Caitlyn didn’t leave. Their growing feelings for each other felt genuine and I wanted it to work out for them. Working together to find out why so many secrets were being kept brought them closer and it had a healing effect. This healing was a major part of it for both of them, but in different ways. The love and passion came so naturally. An enjoyable read.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Murder in the Village’ by Lisa Cutts

‘Murder in the Village’ is a the first in a new cozy mystery series by Lisa Cutts. Belinda Penshurst has interests in businesses in her small village – one of them the local pub. When a suspicious death occurs there she is pulled into solving the mystery, along with retired police detective Harry Powell, a newcomer to the village. But that’s not the only strange thing going on. Dognappers seem to be targeting the village, and the pair join forces to find out why. And who is involved. 

I must admit I didn’t take to Belinda right away, but as the story progressed I began to see where she was coming from. She appeared bossy and dismissive at first, but there was an element of humour there too. I liked Harry a lot. He was extremely kind and thoughtful, and his influence rubbed off on Belinda. I liked getting to know the village and the inhabitants. I look forward to more in this series.

I was given this ARC to review: