‘The Cornish Captive’ by Nicola Pryce is the sixth novel in her historical series set in Cornwall. The year is 1800 and Madeleine Pelligrew has been imprisoned for the past fourteen years. Falsely accused of being insane, she has been moved from one mad house to another, until one day a man appears with papers feeing her. But she has suffered so much at the hands of men and finds it impossible to trust any of them. Can this man be trusted?
As she hides her true identity, she attempts to find out exactly what happened all those years ago. Who was really responsible for her incarceration? The friendship of a French prisoner on parole, Captain Pierre de la Croix gives her some hope for the future – but can she believe him? Against the background of the French Revolution and its aftermath the people of Cornwall are unwittingly drawn into the actions of the secret resistance, never really knowing what side their neighbours and friends are really on.
I have always loved historical fiction, so jumped at the chance to read ‘The Cornish Captive’. Although part of a well-established series, it can easily be read as a standalone. The Cornish setting is beautifully described, with the sweeping landscapes of Cornwall an integral part of the story. The historical background of the French Revolution and the years following it, make the story all the more fascinating. Reading about such an important event from the viewpoint of the ordinary people affected made it feel more relevant. It was about more than Mme. Guillotine.
Madeleine’s story is the story of one woman, but also the story of so many women, whose lives were controlled and ruined by powerful men. I wanted to know more about this woman who had been damaged by the treatment of others and by her past. She had strength and determination and this saw her through many trials. One could not help but sympathise with her plight and also fear for her future. Could she trust Pierre de la Croix? Was he the answer to her prayers?
This thoroughly enjoyable epic story took me through a range of emotions. Not just fear and suspicion, but love, joy and hope too. The writing was immersive and kept me hooked until the end. It left me happy, and so glad to have spent some time in Cornwall with these characters.
‘Spring of Hope’ by Cora Harrison is the fourth in her Gaslight Mystery Series. Famous writers Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens are friends and often hold dinner parties for eminent Victorians, most recently for engineers. As London tries to recover from the ‘Great Stink’ of 1859, engineers such as Joseph Bazalgette try to find a solution to the malodorous sewage problem facing the city. When showcasing their ideas a gruesome death occurs. Was it an accident? Or is there more to it? Wilkie and Dickens take it upon themselves to investigate. Dickens needs a distraction from his complicated home life. Wilkie’s mind has been on his recently acquired young housekeeper and her delightful child. Her difficult past is making life in their household far from easy.
I liked that the author used real life characters in the story. Her fictionalised account of their lives made for a fascinating read. This is a very slow burn book and it takes until quite near the end of the book for an actual death to take place. There is a lot of build up, and much detail regarding sewage and the attempts to solve the problems with it.
The author cleverly takes the reader down one path, letting us think we have solved the crime, only to take a twist in the other direction. A good read for lovers of the Victorian era.
I have a new story out in the world. A sweet, healing short story. I hope you will enjoy reading about Bridget. This is the start of her journey. Maybe we will find out even more about her in the future.
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‘Murder In First Class’ by Helena Dixon is the 8th book in her Miss Underhay Mystery Series. I have grown fond of Kitty and Matt and the fascinating characters they find themselves with. I like that there are links to previous books in the series. But there is no need to have read any before as they are self contained.
This time Kitty hopes to spend some quiet time relaxing with her new fiancé, but when he is asked to meet an old comrade from the train and have him stay for a few days, that looks unlikely. When there is a murder on that train and the pair are called in to help, there is no way they will have any time to themselves. Trying to find a suspect from the unlikely collection of passengers proves difficult. And as secrets are revealed Kitty and Matt are in more danger than ever.
This was a good mystery that kept me interested throughout. The 1920s setting works perfectly for this type of cosy mystery and the descriptions of England of that time are so well crafted, that I feel as if I’m there. I can open this book and wallow in the beautiful clothes and fascinating characters. Helena Dixon has perfected the art of mystery and has found a way to bring her readers back for more. I look forward to more in this series.
‘Marion Lane And The Deadly Rose’ is the second in this series by T.A. Willberg. The year is 1959, and as the Cold War heats up, Scotland Yard is baffled by the discovery of murder victims with roses branded on their bodies. They turn to Miss Brickett’s agency for help. Marion is once again tasked with helping solve to solve the mystery, and working on one of her own. One of the new first year recruits should not be trusted. But which of them is up to no good?
I enjoyed being back with Marion and her fellow Inquirers, working within the tunnels and underground passageways beneath London. This is a well-imagined series, full of intrigue and mystery. There is danger and darkness, but also camaraderie and hope. Marion had more confidence and a sense of purpose. She could see that her talents were appreciated and this made her push on in pursuit of justice.
I enjoyed the group dynamic, as her friends and colleagues played a part in the case. The interactions between them were important and bode well for the future of the series. An enjoyable story.
‘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.
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.
‘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.
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:
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
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.