Review of ‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac

‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac was not published in the author’s lifetime, but thankfully the British Library has published it as part of the Crime Classics series. A mysterious disappearance the previous year is still being discussed as the local ball in Fording’s takes place. When a body is found on the road that very night, Waring of the C.I.D. is called in to investigate. It will take more than just a flair for investigation to unravel the mystery as the locals close ranks to keep their secrets. 

‘Two-Way Murder’ is a puzzling mystery and one that confounded my own detection skills no end. I enjoyed the careful and methodical way Waring sought his answers. The author’s skills lie in excellent storytelling, exquisite characterisation and misdirection. I loved wallowing in the Golden Age of Crime with E.C.R Lorac, a writer deserving of more recognition.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts

‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts is an Inspector French mystery written in the 1930s. Set in the North Downs in Surrey, it is the story of a mysterious disappearance that becomes more intriguing as the case progresses. Dr James Earle lives quietly with his wife in the countryside. When he goes missing, the inspector is called in from Scotland Yard. But French cannot fathom what on earth has happened to him. When a visitor goes missing too, the police are baffled. Nothing makes any sense. But the author has concocted a brilliant puzzle. I was completely fooled and thoroughly satisfied by the end.

The setting is the last place one would expect such crimes to take place. It is rural and quiet and the inhabitants apparently genteel and respectable. The writing style perfectly matches this. But as any reader of English countryside mysteries knows, so much lurks under the surface. 

I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery where the investigation is laid out so meticulously.  We see into the mind of the Inspector and begin to understand the crimes as he explains his thinking.  It was a brilliant piece of investigation, broken down in the most compelling way. I was hooked. I am so glad there as more in this series for me to discover.

I was given this book to review.

Review of ‘Due To A Death’ by Mary Kelly

‘Due To A Death’ by Mary Kelly is a dark, suspenseful novel published and set in the early 1960s. It is the story of Agnes and her first person narration of the events in her village in the days leading up to a terrible discovery. A body is found on the marsh. There are secrets amongst the people she knows and loves. As she thinks back we begin to discover that people are not always who they seem to be. 

This book is a departure from the usual reprints I have read in this genre. It is well written and immersive, but it is not in any way cosy or representative of the crime books I normally read. It is dark and grim and depressing. And this may be right up your street. It is also slow-paced, as the author takes her time to tell the story. So if you enjoy your mysteries on the darker side this is for you. 

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 ‘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 ‘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 ‘The Fog of War’ by A.L. Lester

‘The Fog of War’ by A.L. Lester is a historical paranormal romance set in England after the First World War. As Dr Silvia Marks settles back  into life in the small English village where she grew up, she tries to forget the grief tearing at her heart. The disappearance of her lover during the war has left her scarred. With the help of army nurse Walter, she becomes the local G.P. and runs her own practice. When a friend from the battlefield hospital comes to stay, she begins to see some purpose again. But a strange mystery with one of her patients throws everything up in the air. She must decide if she had the courage to find out what’s going on. Because doing so has far-reaching complications. 

This was an imaginative story, with an interesting premise. I liked the time period, as it was a time when women began to venture out into the workplace due to the lack of male labour available. Sylvia was strong and capable, but was still struggling with heartbreak. Lucy came into her life at just the right time, and she had a positive influence on her. The paranormal element was intriguing and there is so much scope to develop it further in the next books in the series. I was certainly very curious as to where it would lead. I enjoyed the book and eagerly await more.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Bookshop Murder’ by Merryn Allingham

‘The Bookshop Murder’ is an enjoyable cozy mystery set in rural England in the 1950s. Flora Steele owns a bookshop in a quiet village where nothing exciting ever happens. That is until a body is found in her shop. When rumours start flying Flora’s livelihood begins to suffer, so finding out why the body was there becomes vital. With the help of local author Jack Carrington she begins to investigate and finds that her seemingly sleepy village holds a multitude of secrets. 

I love cozy mysteries, so I’m always on the lookout for a new series. This is the first in the Flora Steele Mysteries and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next. The dynamic between Flora and Jack was engaging. They worked well together and there was a spark of something more. I’d like to see how that pans out in the future. The setting was perfect and the time period made it all the more interesting. A really enjoyable story, with the promise of more to come. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ by Jenny Frame

I loved being back in Rosebrook Village. This time we are with dapper Archie Archer, a townie who loves her job, but wouldn’t want to live there. When she falls for the romance-loving country-phile Ashling, Archie has to decide what she really wants in life. Can she change her ways for the love of a good woman? And will she be able to give Ashling the storybook ending she hopes for?

There is conflict from the start for this pair. They seem to disagree on everything. But it’s obvious for anyone to see that they are made for each other. They might just need a little push in the right direction. As they are forced to work together more closely, the sparks start to fly. I adored the growing romance between Archie and Ashling, and could feel the passion jumping off of the page. The dynamic was wonderful. This age-gap, enemies to lovers story swept me off my feet. And the wonderful family-feeling of the village made it so special. Every person wanted to be there, and they were all behind the couple, cheering them on. I can’t wait for the next one and finding out what happens next for Fox, Clem and the gang.

I was given this ARC for review.