Review of ‘The Automobile Assassination by MJ Porter

The Automobile Assassination’ by MJ Porter is set in England in 1944, when the war is in full swing and tensions run high. Chief Inspector Mason and Sergeant O’Rourke are called in when a body is found in the vicinity of the Castle Bromwich aerodrome. Unable to identify the man, the pair begin to question the members of the Air Force stationed there. Was he one of them? Could he have been a spy? Mason feels compelled to solve the case and find out who he was – and whether his death was linked to the war effort. 

This is the first book in this series I have read, but it won’t be the last. The story was compelling and opened my eyes to aspects of the war and the daily lives of those living through it. I liked finding out about the time period and the setting was interesting. The working relationship between Mason and O’Rourke was fascinating. The age gap worked well and I enjoyed seeing how they complemented each other. 

MJ Porter’s writing is well crafted and pulls the reader into the story. ‘The Automobile Assassination’ is a very good cosy mystery, with extremely likeable main characters. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Chaos At Carnegie Hall’ by Kelly Oliver

‘Chaos At Carnegie Hall’ by Kelly Oliver is a cosy mystery set in 1917 at the height of the First World War. Fiona Figg works for the War Office and is determined to prove herself, despite pushback from those who refuse to believe women can help the war effort. Frederick Fredericks has eluded capture so far, but the German spy is on Fiona’s radar. When he sends her an invitation to the opera at Carnegie Hall, New York, her bosses jump at the chance to nab him. Fiona is sent on the RMS Adriatic – but must babysit the flighty Eliza on the way. 

Fiona soon realises that her shipmates have much to hide, and her introduction to New York involves intrigue and political shenanigans galore. Will she capture Fredericks at last? Or is he not as guilty as he seems? It will take difficult decisions and superior sleuthing on Fiona’s part. 

I loved the time period as it captured the dangers of war and the perils for those working behind the scenes. Although the old world of privilege was still in full force on board ship and in New York, it was evident that everything was changing. Women’s suffrage was at the top of the agenda for some – and those opposed to it were willing to do anything to stop it. 

Fiona found it difficult to work out who to trust, as spies from all sides tried to influence the war. Who was a friend, and who could be a collaborator? I loved how the author brought in true events and real life characters and put a fictional spin on them. Thomas Edison, Dorothy Parker and J Edgar Hoover played their parts in the story and added to the historical interest. 

‘Chaos At Carnegie Hall’ is a delightful cosy mystery, with excellent historical detail. It is exactly the type of read to lighten the mood.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Maids of Biddenden’ by GD Harper

‘The Maids of Biddenden’ by GD Harper is the story of conjoined twins, Mary and Eliza, born around 1100 in Kent. Sent away to a priory when their mother died in childbirth, nuns bring them up for the first few years of life. Life seems limited for the maids, but as they grow into adulthood, their own individual talents become apparent. Power struggles in Kent society and local superstition could conspire to halt their progress. But the maids push back and inspire those around them. 

What stood out about their story was that they were so different and had to find a way to accommodate the other sister’s interests and needs. Mary’s skill as a healer was renowned, and Eliza became famous for her musical and song-writing talents. It was a wonderfully immersive tale, and I felt I was back there in the 1100s. The sights, smells and culture of the time were well described. 

That they are still remembered today tells us that their impact was great. 

I found their story fascinating, and I was glad that the author chose the uplifting route. I thoroughly enjoy it. 

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘The Empire’ by Michael Ball

It’s 1922 and Jack Treadwell Finds himself entranced by the glamorous world of the theatre. On the surface all is well, but tensions and secrets lie beneath the glitz of The Empire. Getting a job there is the dream he didn’t realise he had. Beautiful stars and behind the scenes rivalries draw him in and he finds himself with a chance of a great future – and the love of a wonderful woman. 

Michael Ball sets the scene well. His writing is cinematic and I can easily  imagine the story being filmed. I found the whole world of the theatre enthralling. I was interested in what went on in putting on a show. 

It was a good story with interesting characters, and had a very different setting – one that I hadn’t read before. I loved the characters, especially Jack, Grace, Lillian and Agnes . There was a charming camaraderie and ultimately a feel good factor. I loved it .

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Agatha Christie – A Very Elusive Woman’ by Lucy Worsley

As a huge admirer of the works of Agatha Christie, I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of ‘Agatha Christie- A Very Elusive Woman’ by Lucy Worsley. 

Telling the story of Agatha’s life, from her early years with an education-averse mother, to Dame Agatha, the most read female writer ever. 

Lucy Worsley has a very engaging style. Bringing together research from the Christie archives, as well as contemporary accounts and Agatha’s own words, she paints a picture of a fascinating woman. Whatever your preconceived ideas may be of Mrs Christie, this book gives a chance to reconsider. As expected the disappearance in 1926 is discussed fully, but unlike many commentators at the time and since, Lucy Worsley delves into the subject with an open mind. I found her conclusions convincing and thoughtful. 

I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

Review of ‘In The Mood’ by MW Arnold

‘In The Mood’ by MW Arnold is set in 1944 at the Air Transport Auxiliary service in Hamble, Hampshire. The female pilots are helping the war effort by delivering aeroplanes all over the country, at great risk. In this, the fourth in the series, they are again faced with mysteries to solve, and personal tragedies to face. Blackmail is the least of their problems, as peril mounts and they find themselves in grave danger.

They were an interesting group of women, and I found that I wanted to read more about them. The camaraderie between them was inspiring. MW Arnold captured the intense relationships and friendships that are part of war. His chatty style allows the reader to feel a part of the group, as they live day to day with war and the losses that entails. 

MW Arnold also managed to weave this group friendship with a mystery. I liked it and I liked them. They were a very diverse set of women, each with their own skills and challenges in life. An enjoyable read.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Murder In The Cathedral’ by Cora Harrison

‘Murder in the Cathedral’ by Cora Harrison is a fascinating historical mystery set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s. When the archdeacon of the protestant Cathedral dies suddenly, and one of the Reverend Mother’s own flock is found dead nearby, the sleuthing nun feels compelled to unravel the mystery. Why was young Enda even in the church? And what secrets are being kept by those allied to to the church? The Reverend Mother unravels the layers of deception and intrigue, finding that people are not always all that they seem.

I found the historical aspects of the story as fascinating as the mystery itself. The author gave a very interesting insight into Irish society after the civil war . Once they were a free state, the two communities had to learn to live together within a different power dynamic.  The Anglo Irish were no longer in control and that made for some interesting interactions. The story was about a country learning to live with a new reality. A new order. About two communities living in parallel . It was also about poverty and secrets. Cora Harrison has managed to weave all of this into well-written and immersive mystery. I loved it.

Out on 6th September.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Time After Time’ by Louise Pentland

‘Time After Time’ by Louise Pentland is a heartwarming, funny and delightfully insightful story. 

Tabby’s life is suddenly upended when her dad makes a surprise announcement over Sunday lunch. She likes to stay well within her comfort zone, but the dominoes begin to fall and there’s nothing she can do to stop them. As she tries to cope with the changes, she wishes she could go back in time, where things were simpler. Meeting Bea begins a voyage of discovery. The only problem is, Bea is in the 1980s, and Tabby has been pushed into the past. So why does everything feel right in 1989? And will her travels in time be the answer to her present day problems?

I loved the time travel element of this novel. As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I revelled in the retro fashion details. I adored the mention of long lost shops. I couldn’t get enough of the tiny day to day differences. I felt I was with Tabby as she discovered the world of big hair, even bigger shoulder pads and mountains of Elnett hair spray. 

It was about Tabby discovering what she wanted from life. Wouldn’t we all love the chance to see ourselves from another perspective? 

It was a beautiful story of love, self-discovery and hope. I adored it.

I was given this ARC to review. 

Review of ‘Letter From A Tea Garden’ by Abi Oliver

‘Letter From A Tea Garden’ by Abi Oliver is one of those stories that will stay with me. Eleanora Byngh is in a rut – and a bad one at that. Her life revolves around the next glass of whiskey, as she lives out her later years in England with her old friend Persi. When an unexpected invite from her nephew in India arrives, she begins to re-evaluate. Can one ever go back? Will she feel like a stranger in the land of her birth? Or is this the chance she has been waiting for to make a change? Going back to where it all began brings memories maybe best forgotten. But it may also be a new start for everyone. 

I must admit that I did not take to Eleanora at the start. She was crotchety and contrary and could not see past her next drink. She had settled into being a caricature of who she really was. Her friend and companion Persi knew there was more to her than the grumpy old woman everyone else saw, and nudged her in the right direction. Going back to the India of their youth and facing the truths they had been avoiding could be what they both needed. 

Abi Oliver described beautifully the sights and sounds of India. One could almost imagine being there. She brought to life the colour, the vibrancy and the excitement of a land on the cusp of something new. She also showed the poverty and despair of the majority of Indians. I was transported to pre-war India, when the Raj was still in full swing. And then to the horrors of war and famine. Eleanora’s story was interwoven with the historical realities of the time, skilfully and with attention to detail. 

“Letter From A Tea Garden’ made me laugh, and it made me cry. It was a story if secrets and lies, of love and loss. And ultimately of facing up to the past. I adored it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Sweetheart Locket’ by Jen Gilroy

‘The Sweetheart Locket’ by Jen Gilroy is the heartwarming story of a family of women, told between two time periods. In 1939, Maggie Wyndham is in wartime London, and has defied the wishes of her family who want her back home in Canada. Instead she signs up to help the war effort. Her love for an RAF officer goes against the class conventions of the time, but Maggie is determined and brave enough to decide for herself. When life throws her a few curveballs, she has to make some difficult decisions. Decisions that will impact her whole future and that of her descendants. 

In 2019 her granddaughter Willow has taken a DNA test and, along with her mother, has been given some very interesting and unexpected results. She has long treasured the sweetheart locket left to her by her English grandmother, but is now faced with the reality that her grandparents may not have been all they seemed. What is she to believe? Her quest to find the truth leads her to London and research that may uncover some uncomfortable truths. 

I liked that the story was told over two time periods. It alternated between wartime Europe and the present day, when Willow began her research into her grandmother’s past. I loved finding out about Maggie’s time in London, and how she helped the allied effort to beat the Nazis. She made lifelong friends, and it was these relationships that helped shape her future. Her love for two different men was a situation lived by many women at the time. And who knows how any of us would have reacted in the same situation. 

Willow’s story was one of discovery – not just about her grandmother, but about herself too. She realised that sometimes we have to take a chance. And her grandmother’s courage gave her the impetus to consider change. 

‘The Sweetheart locket’ was about love, friendship, secrets and sometimes lies. It was heartwarming and made me feel some powerful emotions. I laughed and cried with  Maggie, Willow, Millie and Vi. I felt invested in their stories and left them feeling happy and satisfied. I loved this book and heartily recommend it.

I was given this ARC to review.