Review of ‘Two For Sorrow’ by Nicola Upson

‘Two For Sorrow’ by Nicola Upson is an immersive and beautifully written Josephine Tey mystery, set in 1930s London. Josephine is back in London researching her next book on the baby farmers of the early part of the century. Amelia Sachs and Annie Walters were executed for their crimes, but Miss Tey is more interested in the aftermath of their crimes. How others were also affected. While staying at her club in town, Josephine is drawn into a case investigated by her friend Detective Inspector Archie Penrose. Danger lurks all around and the pair must find the killer before it is too late.

There’s a depth to the story that you don’t see coming, and I must admit it took my breath away. The author weaves a story of personal tragedy, with a wider stain on society. And the years have not wiped away that stain. 

London of that era was so perfectly described, as Josephine meets with her London theatre friends and mixes with high society. There’s plenty of name dropping- which is an absolute delight. We saw the lives of women of different classes and the choices they had to make. And we also saw the consequences of those decisions.

Nicola Upson cleverly ties in the tiny threads of her story and brings it all together with such skill. 

I was left profoundly moved by the stories within ‘Two For Sorrow’. It’s a stunningly well written and researched story and would make a wonderful film/tv adaptation.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Death in Disguise by Emma Davies.

Sometimes a book takes you by surprise. You don’t realise just how enjoyable and satisfying it’s going to be. That’s what happened when I started reading ‘Death in Disguise’ by Emma Davies. Francesca Eve is a caterer and is intrigued by a murder mystery dinner party she caters for a group of female friends. It’s all good fun, even when one of the group has to ‘die’ as part of the game. When one of the women dies later the fun ends. Fran discovers that the victim may not have been all she seemed. In fact none of the guests were. What secrets did they hold – and did those secrets have anything to do with the murder? Fran and Adam join forces to find out the truth before the killer strikes again. 

This was an engrossing mystery that kept me guessing to the end. There were plenty of twists and turns and it was an original and enjoyable story. It got more and more exciting as the story progressed. I loved the dynamic between Fran and Adam. It was an unusual pairing, but one that worked really well. I’m looking forward to more in this new series.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Front Page Murder’ by Joyce St. Anthony

Irene Ingram is now editor in chief of the Progress Herald. Her father has left to report on the war in the pacific, and her fiancé is in training somewhere, preparing to join the battles in Europe. She may be a great reporter and ready to take on the role, but it’s the early 1940s. Many of the residents in her small town don’t agree. A woman in a position of power is extremely unusual and not always welcomed. Irene is determined to prove them wrong and gets the chance to show her skills, when a sudden and unexplained death hits close to her. With anti-Semitic attacks springing up in the previously quiet and welcoming town, Irene and her friend Peggy begin to investigate. 

I liked the historical World War 2 time-frame. It was very well described and it felt so contemporary even though it was set in the 1940s. These characters felt real.  She managed to make the reader feel a part of the time too. It was a fantastic story and so believable. I really liked Irene . She was strong, daring and clever, and I want to read more of her stories.

This book gave a very different perspective. We found out about the women who stepped up and took on responsibilities outside the home. Through Irene’s eyes we saw the barriers they came up against. 

The mystery was well told and kept me gripped throughout. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review .

Review of ‘Tight Race’ by Elizabeth Sims

The Lillian Byrd mystery series by Elizabeth Sims has been a favourite of mine, since my early days of reading WLW fiction. I was delighted to find that there was a new book out and jumped at the chance to read it. ‘Tight Race’ finds Lillian working as media liaison for mayoral candidate and retired cop,  Leon Sorrel. Navigating the cut-throat world of local politics whilst conducting an affair with co-worker and socialite Marie Chamberlain was never going to work out well. When a double murder puts Lillian under suspicion, she has to find answers before the whole campaign is threatened. Dirty cops and even dirtier newspaper columnists add to the mix, making the investigation seedier by the minute. 

First of all, I love Lillian Byrd as a main character. She is unconventional, daring and the kind of person you want on your side in any fight. She takes risks and I worry about her. ‘Tight Race’ was a cracking story and kept me reading well into the night. Elizabeth Sims writes in a way that flows naturally. Her style draws the reader in, and we feel as if we are right there with Lillian. I found the story intriguing and loved the Dertroit setting. Getting to know a city and its neighbourhoods through the character’s eyes is a true skill. I really enjoyed it and hope there will be many more mysteries to solve in this series.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Twyford Code’ by Janice Hallett

I approached ‘The Twyford Code’ with high expectations.  Janice Hallett’s ‘The Appeal’ was my favourite book of 2021, and I was desperate to see if she could equal its brilliance. I was not disappointed.

‘The Twyford Code’ is a stunningly clever mystery; a mixture of crime and old world charm. Steven Smith is an ex-con trying to piece together events from his troubled childhood. Finding a strange book , full of markings and handwritten notes changed his life back then. Showing it to an inspirational teacher led to an investigation into clues apparently hidden within the book. The author of that book, now sidelined for old-fashioned and offensive views, was a firm favourite with children for decades. Could she have left clues within the pages of her books? As we become privy to the investigation, the readers join in this mind-bending and exciting mystery. 

The story is teased out bit by bit and there are some ‘oh my god!’ moments. The author mixes Smithy’s past life tales of crime with the present. It is clever, with a myriad of twists and turns. At times it is shocking, mysterious and thrilling, and went places I didn’t see coming. It is beyond me how someone can craft such an astounding story. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Murder Underground’ by Mavis Doriel Hay

‘Murder Underground’ was originally published in the 1930s, and it is to that time the reader is transported. The descriptions of London, life in boarding hotels and the various characters were fascinating.  It intrigued me.

When one of the boarders at the Frampton Hotel is found dead in Belsize Station, theories abound amongst the residents as to how she met her death. Miss Pongleton was not a popular woman, but none of her fellow residents would have wished a violent death on her. The strength of this story is in the characters and how they fit in to the mystery. I loved the conversations between them, and finding out slowly what part they each had to play. I can’t get enough of the Golden Age of Crime. 

I was given this ARC to review. 

My Best Books of 2021!

This year has been another difficult one, but authors have stepped up and given us some amazing stories. I struggled to whittle my favourite books of the year down to a reasonable number. There was no way I could stop at a Top Ten, but I managed a Top Fifteen. These are the books that made my year, and I highly recommend each and every one. Here they are, listed in no particular order:

  1. The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton

2. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

3. The Island Between Us by Wendy Hudson 

4. The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan 

5. Ignis by KJ

6. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

7. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R Austin

8. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

9. The End Of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

10. Her Last Request by Mari Hannah

11. The Dead Of Winter by Nicola Upson

12. Song Of Serenity by Brey Willows

13.The Appeal by Janice Hallett

14. Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

15. Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Review of ‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett

‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett is my book of the year. This fantastic mystery had me hooked from the start and kept me up to the wee hours trying to work out the solution. It was so clever and I am in awe of Janice Hallett’s skill at planning and writing such an original and beautifully told story. 

In Lower Lockwood life revolves around the local amateur dramatics society, so when two newcomers move to the town it is perfectly natural that they join. At the same time an appeal to raise money for the sick granddaughter of the leading lights of the society begins. But the story is told through an investigation by two law students into a murder and the determination of a QC to discover if an innocent person has been convicted. 

It is told in a very unusual way and it is this that makes it stand out even more. Connections unravel as the reader sifts through the evidence and we get to see inside the minds of the various characters in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. It is a stunning piece of work.

Review of ‘Murder By The Book’ edited by Martin Edwards

I can’t adequately describe the thrill of looking at the contents of ‘Murder By The Book’ and seeing that some of my favourite authors of the Golden Age have stories in it. Gladys Mitchell, Ngaio Marsh and GDH and M Cole to name just a few. There are also stories written later by other writers, many paying homage to that era in their style.

There is a wonderfully informative introduction by Martin Edwards, and each story is prefaced by a piece about each author, what part they played in the genre and their other writings. They are all ‘bibliomysteries’, and all to do with books in some way. The best thing about this type of book is that I have been introduced to some writers that are new to me. I can now add them to my list of authors to check out.

My favourite stories were ‘A Man And His Mother-in-Law by Roy Vickers, ‘Chapter & Verse’ by Ngaio Marsh and ‘A Question of Character’ by Victor Canning. But they were all excellent stories and the perfect way to spend a few hours. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Dublin Railway Murder’ by Thomas Morris

This book is based on a true story and has been meticulously researched, using documents from the time. But it reads like a great murder mystery story and is engrossing. When the chief cashier of the railway is found dead in his office, we are introduced to a true locked room mystery. The author explains the working of the railways at that time and that in itself is fascinating. The Victorian era was the heyday of the railways, and was big business. I won’t go into the investigation to prevent spoilers, but suffice to say, it is a great tale. Thomas Morris captures the times so well.

I was given this ARC to review.