‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes is the first in a new series, and features Kendall Mancini, boss of a crime family, but with a heart of gold. Jess/Robyn, an FBI agent is sent in undercover to try and stop a war between the powerful families in the city. Her aim is to convince Kendall to turn away from crime and work with the authorities to bring down the murderous elements within the families. What she didn’t expect was the attraction between them. Keeping secrets was always going to be dangerous, but now it is personal too.
I liked that the story was told from two points of view. We got to know Kendall and Jess/Robyn intimately and could therefore empathise with their dilemmas. We also knew their secrets and the painful decisions each had to make. The author cleverly ratcheted up the tension, making me wonder whose side I was on. Did I want the head of a crime syndicate to prevail? Or the law enforcement officer? As their romance grew I wanted it to work out for them, whatever the cost.
I thought I knew where it was going, but the author managed to twist it all and surprise me again and again. It was a very good story with relatable characters. It ended in a way that makes me desperate to read the next in the series.
‘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.
‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ by Louise Hare is perfect for fans of the Golden Age mystery novels of Agatha Christie and the like. Lena jumps at the chance to sail off to New York when a fantastic job offer comes her way. Working in a basement jazz club was never the plan, but a murder in the cub makes her desire to get out of London all the more urgent. Once on board the Queen Mary she is pushed into spending time with a rich and influential family. Danger lurks around every corner, even if Lena doesn’t realise it. A mystery unravels as they cross the Atlantic – and someone is intent on causing mayhem.
The story had the best setting. A murder mystery aboard an ocean liner is always going to get my vote. The mystery was well done, and the author brought in class and race issues that made it feel real. Her female characters were interesting and their lives drove the story for me. I enjoyed it.
‘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.
‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx is a fast-paced, tense and exciting thriller. Normally assigned to cold cases, FBI Special Agent Dak Farrell is helping the local Salt Lake City police investigate a serial killer. A brutal and cruel series of murders is baffling the local PD, and they need Dak’s expertise to stop the killer before anyone else dies. C.J. Johnson is a reality TV star, back in town when her show gets cancelled. She is a mortician who uses her skills on TV to make the dead look good again for their open casket viewings. Yes, it’s a truly bizarre concept, but so is much of the weird and wonderful TV these days. Neither of them is looking for anything serious, but will a fling be enough? As they become closer, CJ’s life is in danger. It seems the ‘Artist’ serial killer does not appreciate her reconstructive work on his victims.
‘Dead Pretty’ is a well written and exquisitely plotted story. It is unusual and perplexing and kept me hooked, as I tried to solve the mystery. I didn’t guess the outcome at all. I enjoyed finding out Dak and CJ’s backstories. It made them much more interesting, and I could see why they were the people they were. Their connection was powerful and extremely hot.
‘Dead Pretty’ is crying out to be made into a movie. It is head and shoulders above many of the scripts we see brought to our screens. Highly recommended.
‘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.
‘The Paris Apartment’ by Lucy Foley is a tense and chilling psychological mystery set in a luxury apartment block in Paris. Jess flees a bad situation back home for the comfort of her half-brother Ben’s flat in the French capital. When she arrives he’s nowhere to be found, and all her enquiries lead to more questions. His neighbours have secrets of their own -but what do they have to do with Ben? And can she trust any of them?
Told from the point of view of several characters, it means the unreliable narrator is part of the story. It keeps the reader guessing. Jess is not exactly a sympathetic character, so one never knows who to trust. There are so many secrets and shifty characters. It’s quite a slow burn story but worth the wait as the ending shocked and surprised me. I did not see it coming.
‘Murder On An Irish Farm’ by Carlene O’Conner is the eighth in the series, but can most definitely be read as a standalone. It is the first I have read and had no problem understanding the background. The story starts on the day of the wedding of Siobhan and Macdara, a wedding the has to be put on hold when a skeleton is found in a disused slurry pit on a nearby farm. The pair put duty first and run off to investigate. When the case harks back fifty years, the elderly neighbours to the farm become involved, and long held secrets lead to more danger and peril for the detectives. Will they be able to solve the murder before anyone else gets hurt?
I loved the small Irish village setting. It was beautifully described, and the people and their use of language was spot on. I could imagine it so well and hear the dialogue spoken in the wonderful Irish accent. There is humour too, which points to a nation that does not take itself or anyone else too seriously. The author blends this humour with a steely determination to solve crime. It was a fantastic mystery, with lovable characters and the perfect setting.
It’s 1952 in gloomy post-war London, and a group of travellers head off for the ski slopes of Austria. The eight men and eight women can’t wait to escape and partake of everything a European ski resort has to offer. But back home Inspector Brook of Scotland Yard is faced with a terrible death to solve – and the only clue points to an expert skier. Do any of the group have a connection? Brook must sift through the evidence and find the killer before it is too late.
I loved the tandem elements of the story, with the police investigation in London, where clues point to a link to the ski trip, and the trip itself. It was very well written and immersive. It was made all the more interesting to someone in the early 21st century reading about post-war grimy and miserable London, and Europe recovering after the war and trying to get back to some sort of normality with tourism. Carol Carnac originally published this book in 1952, but it has not aged. It is as readable and impressive as it was then.
Carnac lets her characters talk, and through them we see the story unfold. She has a knack for seeing who people really are, and knows their faults and vices. After all, people are people, and a good detective can always count on that. I loved this story and now feel compelled to hunt out more by this author.
Rachel needs a job and due to potential difficulties with her work visa, she’s willing to take the first decent job offered to her. But what is the job? It’s all a bit of a mystery and she can’t help but do a bit of snooping. Is she getting in over her head?
This is a great mystery story with an unexpected twist. I have read just about everything Anne Hagan has written and have never been disappointed. She has the knack of writing the most ingenious mysteries and I alway look forward to reading her next story. This one hit the spot.