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Madeleine's 2020 reads

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Fri January 3rd, 2020, 9:43 am

January

"An Island Christmas" by Jenny Colgan - this is the latest in the Mure series of novels set on a tiny Scottish island, and as the title says the close-knit community are preparing for Christmas, but other events are overshadowing the festivities, such as Flora's pregnancy by her troubled boyfriend Joel, and the serious illness of US businessman Colton, who has relocated to the island and opened a new hotel, but is sadly in the final stages of cancer, and being nursed by his partner, Flora's brother Fintan. Then there's Flora's best friend Lorna, who is in love with the local doctor Saif - a refugee from Syria, who is trying to settle on the island with his two young sons, but is desperate for news of his missing wife, and there are also various members of Flora's family who drift in and out, including the dog Bramble! It's a gentle of a close knit community, but the author also shows how claustrophobic such a setting can be, even if the locals are as well-meaning and caring (mostly) as the residents of Mure. But matters escalate when a terrible storm hits, and it looks like more than one issue will be resolved, or have to be faced. This is a warm and witty book, and the little community is actually very believable, as is the setting - a small rock out in the Atlantic! Enjoyable, and I look forward to reading the first two books in this series. 7/10

"Ryan's Christmas" by L J Ross - this is a sort of stand-alone, companion novel to the regular series and is set just before Christmas. DCI Ryan is off duty for once and goes to Edinburgh for the day with his wife Anna, and colleagues Frank and Denise, who are now married (I'm a bit behind on the main series). On their way home ,they hit a snowstorm which closes the main road, and when they turn off onto the smaller country roads they run into a snowdrift and have to walk to the nearest property, which happens to be Chillingham Castle, a real life castle which is also, reputedly, the most haunted castle in England, and which happens to be running a ghost weekend which is just about to start when the foursome turn up. They're duly invited to join in, and in true country house murder fashion it's not long before a scream rings out and the body of the housekeeper is found outside in the snow - but with only one set of footprints leading towards the body, and none leading away from it. Snowed in and with no chance of any outside help for the immediate future, Ryan and his team have to do their best to preserve the crime scene, and find out the identity of the killer. This was a lighter read than is usual in this series, and is almost a gentle pastiche of similar country house style murder mysteries. Thoroughly enjoyable. 7.5/10

The House on Vesper Sands" by Paraic O’Donnell - it's London, 1893, and young working class women are going missing, reportedly taken by the Spiriters. At first, the police think this is a bizarre rumour put round, but when a young seamstress commits suicide, and yet another girl goes missing, they finally take notice, and the indomitable Inspector Cutter is put on the case. A young man, Gideon Bliss, a theology student who's been staying with his uncle in London, is looking for the missing girl, who had been staying with his uncle - Gideon had been tasked with teaching her how to read, and there was an attraction between the two. He does find her briefly, in a church in a distressed and feverish state, but he's clobbered and drugged, and when he comes round she's gone again. When Cutter mistakes him for a policeman, Gideon decides to go along with the deception and finds himself on the case, for by now his uncle is also missing, as is an Earl who owns the house where the seamstress killed herself. The Earl has another house, the titular house in Kent, and the police head down there in search of answers. Also on the case is a young journalist, Octavia, who takes it on herself to investigate the Spiriters and their link to all these disappearances. Overall I enjoyed this, I liked Octavia who managed to be more than the usual feisty Victorian young lady who won't conform to what's normally expected of her, and Gideon, although a bit of a wimp at first, does come through as the story goes on. I did feel it was a bit over-written though, and as it went on and the supernatural element took over, it started to feel a bit like a Victorian X files story! But I think there could be potential in the 3 main investigators for more adventures, although it did feel a bit rushed at the end. 7.5/10

Murder at the Fitzwilliam by Jim Eldridge - this is the first in a new series set in late Victorian England, and is set in Cambridge's famous Fitzwilliam Museum. When an unidentified body is found in a sarcophagus in the Egyptian Room, former policeman, and now what we would call private detective/investigator, Daniel Wilson is called in. At first it's assumed to be a break in that went wrong, although how he ended up in the sarcophagus is unclear, but when one of the museum's nightwatchmen is also found murdered, it looks like the cases might be linked. Daniel is helped by archaeologist Abigail, who also wants to find out who is desecrating her beloved museum, and the museum are also keen to get the case solved, especially with the Press printing sensational stories about an escaped mummy being responsible. The case deepens when Daniel is attacked in the street, and coupled with the growing attraction between himself and Abigail (which of course both try to deny) it looks like there won't be a simple resolution any time soon. This was an enjoyable, cosy period crime read with two likeable (although I did want to shake them occasionally!) protagonists, and the two are set for more adventures, as the 5th book in the series is due out in the summer. I would like to know more about Daniel's background, he worked with Inspector Fred Abberline on the Ripper cases, and this is often referred to in the book, so hopefully a prequel might be due at some point? I'd certainly like to know more! 7.5/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Wed February 5th, 2020, 9:45 am

February

"Intrigue in Covent Garden" by Susanna Gregory - this is the 13th in the Thomas Chaloner series, set in Restoration London and takes place over Christmas and January 1665/66. Chaloner, a spy, finds himself investigating several cases, the most important one being a plot which will at best cause riots and at worst might well be another attempt to take out the King (the restored Charles II) and as many of his courtiers as possible. A troupe of actors has arrived in the City and seems intent on stirring up rebellion, along with a self styled preacher Urban, who wants the protests to be peaceful but is planting more seeds of provocation amongst the ordinary people of the City, those who survived the plague, and are furious at the King for fleeing the City during the outbreak, and for living a life of debauchery and flamboyance ever since his Restoration. There's also the ongoing hostility with the Dutch, including a disastrous battle, and the mysterious sinking of a British warship whilst at anchor in London, the murder of 2 physicians, removing a Dutch spy to safety, hunting for a missing courtier's wife, and bizarrely, searching for a missing trumpet which will play an important part at the forthcoming Fast, which supposedly will commemorate and remember Charles I's execution. So Chaloner is pretty busy, and soon becomes caught up in the endless plotting and various machinations of the Court, and then a known assassin decided he wants to help him with his inquiries! This was a very convoluted plot, and it took me a while to work out who everyone was, but once I got that straight I quite enjoyed it, although it did flag a little at times and felt a bit repetitive. But it certainly got eventful, with subterfuge, explosions and a vast list of characters, most of whom, according to the author's note, really existed, so it covers a fascinating area of history too. And Chaloner is, as always, an engaging likeable character, even though sometimes he has to do some very unsavoury things. 7.5/10

"The Hunting Party" by Lucy Foley - a group of friends from London, all with good, high powered jobs - 4 couples and 1 single woman - are at a hunting lodge in a remote part of Scotland, which has now been converted into a luxury resort, the only other occupants are an Icelandic couple who are staying in a separate part of the complex, Heather who is in charge of admin/housekeeping etc, and Doug, the gamekeeper who keeps himself very much to himself and doesn't mix with anyone else unless he has to or it's work related. The Londoners all travel up by train together, and before the celebrations have even started old tensions - most of them were at Oxford together - are beginning to surface, but these are brushed off as the midnight hour approaches, and a lot of alcohol is drunk, a few drugs are taken, and before the New Year is even halfway through it's first day, one of the group is found dead in a ravine, having been reported missing earlier. It's fairly obvious that the death wasn't an accidental drunken fall, and even more obvious that the killer is someone at the Lodge. As snow falls heavily, the Lodge is cut off and although the police are informed, not even Mountain Rescue can get to the area for several hours, maybe even days, at least. So as the residents all wait, and live in fear as to who the killer is, we gradually get their back stories. We don't know the identity of the victim (although I wasn't surprised when I found out who it was, as I'd suspected all along), but in a clever twist as the climax builds, for a time it's not clear who is the killer and who is the victim. For a while I did fear it would end in one of those lurid bloodbaths so beloved of this type of book, but thankfully it didn't go that way, and all was revealed, although I did think the ending was a little rushed, although there were a couple more revelations along the way. This book has been heralded as a breath of fresh air, but personally I don't think it reinvents the country house mystery/thriller genre - the characters are all fairly stock and most of them are pretty two dimensional, apart perhaps from Heather, who does show some character development, but most of the Londoners are depicted as pretty shallow, and the gamekeeper is the classic strong silent type with A Past. But it is a enjoyable romp, and according to the author's note, a TV version is in the works, not surprisingly. 8/10

"Dear Mrs Bird" by A J Pearce - the main character of this book, despite the title, is actually Emmeline (Emmy) Lane - it's 1941 and WW2 is devastating London, but Emmy wants to be a Lady War Correspondent, and when she gets a job at what she thinks is one of the London newspapers, she's thrilled. But when she reports for work she finds that she will in fact be working on a magazine, "Woman's Friend", answering readers' problems, which is where Mrs Bird comes in. She is Emmy, and her colleague Kathleen's, terrifying boss and to say she rules with a rod of iron is an understatement. She also vets readers' letters and won't answer anything even mildly salacious eg anything to do with Man Trouble and romance in general. But Emmy, a kind soul, feels sorry for many of the readers, and finds even more to empathise with when she is dumped by her fiancé who promptly marries someone else. So she starts replying personally to those readers who have enclosed an address and before long she occasionally slips a reply into the magazine, having been reassured that Mrs Bird never reads her own column. But discovery is of course inevitable, and coming after a personal tragedy, Emmy finds herself bereft on all fronts. However she is nothing if not resilient, and for me this was when the book really took off, as she tried to pick up the pieces of both her life and career. Overall this was an enjoyable book, the first half is very breezy but it does become darker as the war inevitably takes it's toll when it comes very close to home for Emmy and her friends. Emmy is a great character, well meaning and kind (a bit like Jane Austen's Emma but not so scheming, I wonder if the choice of a similar name is coincidental?) but I found Mrs Bird to be something of a cliche and a bit two dimensional, she's the epitome of the classic English lady dragon! But a nice read, well-written and very evocative of the war-time spirit. 8/10

All of a Winter's Night by Phil Rickman - strange happenings in the Shropshire village of Ledwardine after Merrily Watkins, priest and deliverance expert (ie exorcist) conducts what seems to be a very plain, rushed funeral for a young farmer killed in a road accident. The night after the internment however, Merrily and her daughter witness some strange activities at his gravesite, which are later confirmed by her boyfriend, Lol, and gravedigger Gomer, who are reluctantly drawn into the case as it looks as if the young man, Aidan Lloyd, may have been deliberately targeted. An old feud is re-opened between his family and that of another local landowner, who seems to have a strange hold over many people in the area. When a female priest from a neighbouring village is murdered, the net widens, and Merrily, whose job is already under threat, finds herself in real danger. I haven't read one of these books for a long time, but enjoyed this one, with it's wonderfully sinister and macabre atmosphere, even thought the plot was a bit convoluted at times, it was still a good, slightly spooky read. 8/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Wed March 4th, 2020, 9:40 am

March

"Coming Home to Winter Island" by Jo Thomas - Ruby is a singer with a band, but when she loses her voice at an important gig just before Christmas, she decides to go to a vocal retreat in Tenerife to help heal her voice. But then a phone call from a solicitor in Scotland tells her that she has a grandfather who she didn't know was still alive, but sadly as he is suffering from dementia, he needs to go into a home, and as she is his only living relative, she needs to supervise the sale of his house. So off she goes to Winter Island, but finds there is a problem - the old man, Hector, has a sitting tenant, who refuses to move out, and until he goes, the house can't be sold. At first she thinks the young man, Lachlan, is a freeloader, but when she discovers that he is trying to help fulfil Hector's dream of getting the once famous gin distillery up and running again, she decides to help him, so that she can get out to Tenerife, heal her voice and get back to her band again and hopefully hit the big time. But gradually the island, Hector and of course Lachlan start to get under her skin, plus she really wants to find out why Hector and her late father fell out all those years ago, to the extent that neither of her parents ever mentioned her father's family. This was a nice read, and whilst enjoyable I have one quibble - the author does have the habit of hammering home her theme - so first it was "I must get back to London/the band/Tenerife", then it became "I must find the secret recipe for the gin!" etc, all with lots of exclamation marks! This does become a bit irksome after a while, but apart from that this was a feelgood read, even though the outcome is obvious from the start. Great setting though, I would love to visit this island! 7/10

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens - this is set in two time zones, it opens in 1969 when the body of a young man is discovered at the foot of a fire tower, from the position of his body it looks like he was pushed although it could have been an accident.....then the book goes back to 1952 and tells the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, aka the Marsh Girl, and her association with the dead man, Chase. the girl, known as Kya, lives in a shack in the marsh of North Carolina with her family, until her mother, tired of the beatings from her drunken husband, walks out, and is followed one by one by Kya's 4 siblings, who also leave as soon as they're old enough (she's the youngest). Left alone with her father, at first he seems to be making an effort, taking her out in his boat and showing her how to fish etc, but soon he's back to his old ways, and eventually he simply fails to return one day. The local truant officer tries to get her to go to school, but the other children are so nasty that she only stays for one day, and despite their efforts gives them the slip. Eventually she learns to fend for herself, using the fishing and hunting skills she learnt from her father, and she trades some of her catch with the owner of the local boat store, an elderly black man called Jumpin', who helps her when he can, but basically from the age of seven she fends for herself. After a while she befriends a local shrimper's son, Tate, who loves the marsh just as much she does, and he teaches her to read, a skill she uses in later life to study the marsh and it's wildlife and flora, and she becomes a writer of best-selling books. But the romance with Tate flounders once he leaves for college, and Chase, who she's occasionally seen from afar, comes on the scene - he's the local sports hero, from a rich family who sees Kya as a challenge, and he too inevitably lets her down. The years roll by until we get to 1969, and Chase's death, in which Kya is implicated, resulting in a trail and the threat of being separated from her beloved marsh and wildlife for ever. this is very much a book of two halves, the first concentrates on Kya's growing up, the love triangle between her, Tate (when he returns from college) and Chase, whilst the 2nd deals with the fallout from Chase's murder. The first part is very leisurely, with beautiful descriptions of the marsh, sea, lagoons and various birds and animals, which at first are wonderful but after a while I was waiting for something to actually happen, other than the not unpredictable progression of Kya's development from marsh urchin to beautiful young woman. Conversely, the 2nd part of the book feels rather rushed, as if the author was just as eager as Kya to get back to the marsh, and I thought the conclusion was rather hurried, although there is an interesting reveal at the end. So overall a good book, but a bit sluggish at times, but some great characters, and I did feel for Kya, who not surprisingly is convinced that everyone will abandon her. Can't blame her really, she has an appalling early life, but does find happiness in the marsh and it's inhabitants. 7/10

"Under the Ice" by Rachael Blok - it's just before Christmas and Jenny, a new mother, has what she thinks is a bad dream, that she's outside and she witnesses a girl's murder. Next day though, the news announces that a teenage girl has been found murdered in the local lake, exactly as in Jenny's dream. As she and her husband live near the scene, and he reported seeing a strange car, the police interview Jenny and her husband Will, but the lead detective, Maarten Jansen, thinks she's not telling all she knows. But her "visions"/dreams continue, and then another, younger, girl also goes missing - while the prime suspect for the murder is recovering in hospital from a beating at the hands of the victim's family. So both the police and Jenny are faced with a race against time to find and hopefully save the new victim, Becky, who is also a friend of one of Maarten's daughters. Jenny's strange visions continue, she seems to be sleepwalking, and she's also haunted by something from her past. Overall I enjoyed this book, it was an easy read, but I thought it was rather flawed - I found Jenny irritating after a while ,especially her constant holding back from the police, although, not surprisingly given her "visions", further developments lead to her being treated as a possible suspect, but there's not enough evidence to charge her. It wasn't hard to guess what was haunting her, and I also guessed the murderer's identity about halfway through, and then the author did that annoying thing of having the heroine go off on her own, in the dark, to meet the killer! I would still read her next book though, and the snowy setting of St Albans just before Christmas was well evoked. 7/10

The Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor - Alex Pengelly and her brother Johnnie are stunned when their father, David has a severe stroke and they're summoned back to the family home in Cornwall by his second wife, the unpopular and cold Sally, whom he married following the death of their mother Julia, in a mysterious drowning accident. As David lies seriously ill, the now grown children reflect on their lives - forced out of their beloved Cornish home, they both hope they can finally at least be free of Sally and her obnoxious son Mundo, who made their lives a misery during their childhood. Then David passes away and after his will is read, Mundo threatens to fight his half siblings every step of the way. Desperate to find out what really happened to their mother all those years ago, Alex contacts some long lost relatives to find out the truth. The story weaves between Julia's early life, as a student, would be actress and then her lost years until she met David and found, for a time at least, some form of happiness until her old troubles re-surface, and the present day, as Alex struggles to come to terms with her divorce, and setting up her flower decorating business, whilst coping with her grief for her father, and the ghosts from her family's past. this was an Ok read, I thought there was too much of Julia's early life and not enough of the present day issues, which meant that I felt the last part of the book felt rather rushed and a bit too neat. 7/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Thu April 9th, 2020, 8:28 am

April

"Hidden" by Linda Gillard - this book starts in the present day, when Miranda finds out that her father was a famous actor who she's only met once, and who has left her a beautiful moated manor house in Kent. Recovering from a messy divorce after an abusive, controlling marriage, she moves into the house along with her mum, her twin sons, plus her daughter from her first marriage, and her son in law. they refurbish the house and open it to the public, and also have Murder in the Library evenings. All is well, until one day she spots her ex husband visiting, and soon he is making her presence felt again. In the meantime, she's been researching a series of paintings which hang in the house, the Painted Lady series depicting scenes from Shakespeare, mainly of tragic heroines, and all the female figures have the same face. And when the moat is drained for maintenance work, a body is found. So we then go into the story of the artist Esme Howard, who lived 100 years ago and who we first meet in 1918. Her fiancé has been killed in the war, but desperate for a child she advertises for a husband, promising to take on a disabled or badly scarred soldier. And so Guy Carlyle agrees to marry her; he's been badly hurt and his face is seriously scarred, but Esme tries to make a go of things and at first it's not too bad, but it soon becomes apparent that Guy is unable to perform his marriage duties, and they sleep in separate rooms. He's also suffering from shell shock and has terrible nightmares. At first Esme is sympathetic, but as he becomes more controlling- he lets her carry on painting but stops her models from visiting as he can't stand the noise they make (it's a big enough house, so surely he could have stayed in a different wing, or Esme could have worked in another part of the house?) so eventually Esme ends up having to use herself as a model, or the housemaid Hannah. He does let her go to an exhibition of her work in London, and after a night of passion she finds she is pregnant, and Guy agrees to let her have the baby on condition that she gives it up for adoption as soon as it's born. Meanwhile, he's drinking heavily and his paranoia is becoming worse to the extent that Esme is truly a prisoner in her own home, and is only allowed out from her room to paint, and to speak to the servants occasionally. As Armistice Day approaches, the scene is set for the inevitable showdown. I enjoyed this, it was very well-written and Esme is a hugely sympathetic character, as is Hannah, the servant, and the kindly doctor. Guy himself does elicit sympathy at first, but eventually becomes so unhinged it's hard to feel sorry for him, especially as, from what we're told of his earlier life as a PE teacher, it looks like his controlling issue was already there. We do get an occasional glimpse of the man he might have been, but the ending is inevitable. 8/10

"Seven Bridges" by L J Ross - the 8th in the series and this is set almost entirely in the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as Ryan's team find themselves face with the threat of explosions on the city's bridges. First victims are the Tyne Bridge and then the High Level Bridge, both suffer some damage and no serious casualties, but the 3rd explosion on the Millennium Bridge results In several deaths. Meanwhile, the team also have to take a back seat when one of their own becomes a murder victim, and another is the main suspect, but as they're unable to investigate and the case is handed to the neighbouring Constabulary, they find themselves unable to help their colleague whilst trying to catch a mass murderer, plenty to keep them busy then! this was another enjoyable read, with some nice continuing character development - whilst Ryan is very obviously the main character and the hero his team are also given ample time to shine. My only quibble is that the books are too short! 8/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Mon May 4th, 2020, 8:56 am

May

"The Story Keeper" by Anna Mazzola -this book is set on Skye in 1857. Audrey, a young woman originally from London, spent many happy holidays there until her mother was killed in a fall; her devastated father withdrew into his grief for a time and then remarried, but Audrey doesn't get along with her stepmother, who isn't a bad person but thinks that Audrey should stop her interest in folklore and fairy tales (which she inherited from and shared with her mother) and settle down and marry a young man instead. But after a disastrous incident at the orphanage where she'd been teaching, Audrey is relieved to be accepted for a "job" on Skye, helping a lady to collect and put together a book containing all the tales and legends of the island, before they are lost forever due to people being cleared out for the Clearances. But once on the island Audrey believes something odd is going on, a girl she met briefly on the boat over to the island washes up on the shore outside the home where she is staying, she's presumed to be a suicide but when another girl goes missing and then returns, seriously disturbed, Audrey starts to suspect that, rather than the Spirit Host being responsible, something much more earthly is to blame, and might be much closer than she thinks. I really enjoyed this, it was very well written and atmospheric, and Audrey is a gutsy heroine without being too cliched. Some nicely spooky fairy tales too, and the island is almost a character in itself. I also really liked Mairi, the maid who takes Audrey around to the local crofters so that she can hear their tales. 8/10

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart - Bryony Ashley is forced to return home to Ashley Court, her beloved ancestral pile, after her father is killed in a road accident. As the only girl, she knows she can't inherit and the house and estate will go to her cousins, but there is a family trust to protect the house from falling into the wrong hands. So when her cousins turn up, begging her to break the trust so that they can inherit faster and basically do what they like with the estate, she's not too happy; although it is their inheritance she starts to get suspicious and wonders if her father's death was an accident. Helped by the local handyman with whom she grew up, she soon starts to realise she might be in serious danger, and that her cousins might do anything to get their inheritance. I quite enjoyed this, I don't think it's the best of Mary's books but it was a nice escapist read, even if it was a bit of a standard woman in peril tale! I really liked Bryony as a character, she has a nice dose of cynicism, and the use of her inherited telepathy gave the story a slightly supernatural twist. 7/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Sun June 7th, 2020, 1:47 pm

June

"Dark Sacred Night" by Michael Connelly - this is the first book in a new series in which Connelly's most famous detective, Harry Bosch, joins forces with Renee Ballard, at LAPD, Bosch is sort of in the wilderness and working for the much smaller San Fernando PD, but he asks Renee to help him with a cold case, the murder of runaway Daisy Carlton nine years earlier. he's never forgotten this lost girl, to the extent that her mum, Elizabeth, has been staying with him following drug rehab. In the meantime he also has to deal with gangsters, and a hit on himself! Although I thought this got off to a slightly slow, pedestrian start, the pace picked up halfway through and the rest was pretty much a page turner (even though the final showdown was slightly disappointing in that Renee goes in all on her own.....) but it was well-written and overall I enjoyed it. 7.5/10

Impostor by L J Ross - this is the first in a new series by the author of the DCI Ryan books. Dr Alex Gregory is a psychologist, based at a hospital in South London where he tries to counsel those who've perpetrated terrible crimes, and attempts to help them address their crimes and hopefully guide them towards a better life. His main patient is Cathy Jones, a woman who, due to Munchhausens' by proxy, has caused the deaths of two of her children. However she is convinced that she has done nothing wrong. Meanwhile, a murder in a quiet Irish village leads to him being called in to profile the killer of a young mother, and when another, this time older mother is murdered in similar circumstances, both Gregory and the local police are under pressure to find the murderer, fast. Alex feels helpless and also has his own past to try to deal with, and with hardly any evidence to go on, everyone is hoping for a breakthrough in the case. I enjoyed this, it was a well-written police thriller with an engaging character in Dr Gregory, although it wasn't difficult to guess the identity of his demon. A promising start to a new series (the 3rd book has just been published) and with a couple of mentions of "his friend Ryan", I'm sure a crossover story won't be too far away! 8/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Wed July 15th, 2020, 8:26 am

July

"The Twisted Sword" by Winston Graham - this is the 11th and penultimate of the Poldark series, and I felt it was a book of two halves, a lot of time is spent catching up with the family and Ross is now a Sir (much to George's fury!) and as part of his new role he's sent to Paris to be an unofficial spy as to what's going on in French politics, as France is recovering from the first round of the Napoleonic Wars. So he sets off for Paris with wife Demelza and their two youngest children, teenage Bella and toddler Henry - the two eldest are now married, with one still in Cornwall, the other in the army and waiting for his next posting in Europe. At first it's a round of parties, balls and walks in the park etc, and to be honest not much happens and I felt it dragged a bit. Then Napoleon returns and starts to make his way back to Paris to claim back his leadership, the King is forced to flee, Ross is placed under house arrest and Demelza and the children, not knowing where he is, are forced to return to England. However, Ross being Ross is never one to be confined and eventually he finds himself with the military, as they preprare for a battle near the Belgian town of Waterloo.... Tragedy follows and once the family are reunited back in Cornwall they find themselves picking up the pieces of their lives. Meanwhile George Warleggan is still there, plotting and scheming against his old enemy, although he does provide some of the book's lighter moments as he too, also has a surprise in store. So after a clunky start I found this book really gripping, and back on form, and it was great to join the Poldarks again. 8/10

"The Hermitage" by L J Ross- this is the 9th book in the DCR Ryan series and although it begins in the familiar surroundings of Northumberland, most of the story takes place hundreds of miles away in Tuscany. The book starts at Warkworth Castle, when the body of the ferryman is found in the castle's Hermitage. Ryan's capable team start to investigate, as the man himself is in Florence with his wife Anna, on the trail of a killer who gave them the slip in a previous book. But when the real identity of the castle murder victim is found, it's discovered that he has links to Ryan's case, and Frank and Denise head off out to Italy to help their boss bring in their latest serial killer. It's all very entertaining as usual, and we get to learn a bit more about Ryan's background. Enjoyable as ever. 8/10

"The Julius House" by Charlaine Harris - this is the 4th in the Aurora Teagarden mystery series set in Laurenceton, in Georgia, and in this one Roe, as she is known, is preparing for her wedding to Martin Bartell. His present to her is a lovely house, which is notorious for the fact that it's previous owners, the Julius family, disappeared overnight 6 years ago and not a trace has been found of them since. but Roe is thrilled and sets about revamping the property, although she is more than slightly curious about the couple who Martin rents out the apartment over the garage to, supposedly an Army buddy of his who has fallen on hard times, but he and his wife are more like a SWAT team. And when Roe and the wife are attached by an axe man, she begins to wonder why Martin has to keep making so many trips to places like Guatemala. Meanwhile the house's past inevitably comes back to haunt them, and Roe finds herself, as usual, in great danger. It's all written in a breezy style and Roe, despite being somewhat dim at times, is a likeable heroine and this was an easy, fast read 7.5/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Wed August 19th, 2020, 8:45 am

August 2020

"A Wedding at the Beach Hut" by Veronica Henry - Robyn Moss is 30, and has just discovered she's pregnant, she and her partner Jake are thrilled and decide to have a quick wedding. But Robyn was also adopted as a baby, and she decides that now is the time to track down her birth mother, so she opens the small box that her mother left for her, and manages to find her mother surprisingly easily. We then get the back story of how her mother, Emily, came to give up Robyn for adoption, and her life afterwards, as well as Robyn's story as she plans her wedding and works out how to break the news to her beloved adoptive parents, who are also planning changes of their own. There are surprises along the way, and I'd call this, a gentle, enjoyable comfort read, with the lovely setting of a beach hut on the North Devon coast. 7/10

"A Death at Sea" by Andrea Camilleri - this is a collection of 8 short stories, all of which have been adapted for TV. Most of the stories are the same length, more or less, of around 35 pages and it's interesting to see how a nearly 2 hour TV film has been made out of relatively little material. All these stories have the trademark quirkiness and humour of the longer novels, and work well as a quick read. 7/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Posts: 5713
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Mon September 7th, 2020, 8:30 am

September 2020

"Dead Man's Lane" by Kate Ellis - this is the latest in the Wesley Peterson crime series, set in the picturesque (and very dangerous!) town of Tradmouth. Strangefields Farm is notorious for being the home of Jackson Temples, an artist who is currently serving time for murdering several young women who posed for some risqué paintings, but now the house is being redeveloped as a rather unlikely venue for a holiday resort. But building work is halted when human bones are found, at first the police wonder if it's more of the alleged victims coming to light, but when the skull and subsequent skeletons are discovered to be several hundred years old, they relax, for they have a more important investigation on their hands when a local florist is found murdered in exactly the same way as Temples' victims, which means ithere is either a copycat killer on the loose, or Temples was, as he's always insisted, innocent. In the meantime, we also get the parallel story of some of the house's original inhabitants, back in the 17th century, and find out the real story behind the remains found at the house. This is another solid police procedural, which includes a face from Wesley's past, more issues with his mother in law, and a possible miscarriage of justice. These books are enjoyable and very readable, but a little bit more humour would help occasionally! Not to say that they're depressing, but some gentle humour would lighten them a little. 7/10

"The Comforts of Home" by Susan Hill - in this novel detective Simon Serrailler is recuperating on his favourite Scottish island after suffering horrific injuries in his previous case. But murder is never far away and he finds himself investigating when another newcomer to the island is found dead on a beach. It turns out the victim had lots of secrets and as the islanders knew very little about her background it's almost impossible to find out what the motive was for killing the well-liked woman. Meanwhile back in Lafferton a series of fires leave the police baffled. Family life continues with Simon's nephew Sam playing a larger role, and when he returns to the small cathedral town he finds many things have changed as he tries to get back into his old life. This is another solid police procedural, well written and with a good setting in the Scottish island. However the characters are still a little thin, although Simon may at last be thawing just a little bit? 7/10

"Longstone" by L J Ross - this is the 10th novel in the Ryan series and has another fabulous setting, this time the Farne Islands. When a local academic who is also a keen diver announces to the local pub that he's found the wreck of a Viking Ship, there is great excitement and quite a bit of envy too. Then the man is found dead on the rocks of one of the islands - was someone trying to get to the wreck and claim it for themselves? Another murder raises even more questions, as Ryan and his team find themselves at sea - literally sometimes, with some great descriptions of riding through the waves - as they try to find out who the killer is in the small community of Seahouses. Again, great scenery and some nice humour (mainly involving food!) and intrigue as family secrets are revealed. 8/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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Madeleine
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Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Tue October 13th, 2020, 9:53 am

October

"Bone China" by Laura Purcell - this book is set in Cornwall in the early 19th century, and Hester Why has fled London after a disastrous incident, not only that, she has changed her name and does not want to be found. She thinks she is safe in Cornwall at the remote Morvoren House, perched on a rocky clifftop, when she takes up the post as companion to the lady of the house, Louise Pinecroft, who is almost mute and partially immobile, following some sort of stroke. Louise spends most of her time in the China Room, with it's collection of Willow pattern china, which she seems to watch intently, and if she does manage to get to her own bedroom she is locked in. The other resident of the house is Rosewyn, a young woman who has what we would now call learning difficulties, and who is also kept locked in her room most of the time, and is looked after by the strange servant Creeda, a woman who seems to be obsessed with fairies, convinced that they are everywhere. Hester at first thinks this is nonsense, but as strange events start to happen she begins to wonder if there is something supernatural going on. Meanwhile her past seems to be threatening to catch up with her, but more danger seems to be in the present, as she realises that she must protect both her mistress and Rosewyn, but from what or whom she isn't entirely sure. We also get Louise's story and find out about her own past, as we learn of her father's bathe to find a cure for TB - he's a doctor who's been disgraced in London, and whose own wife and other children have all succumbed to the disease - so he too flees to Morvoren House, where he tries out a radical treatment, using convicts as guinea pigs. Louise helps, but trouble brews when she finds herself attracted to one of the younger men. I enjoyed this, it was well written and very atmospheric and vivid, nice and gothic too without being too creepy! I thought all the main characters - Louise, Rosewyn and of course Hester/Esther - were believable and sympathetic, although Hester is a bit unreliable as she spends a lot of time dosed up on either gin or laudanum! One minor point is that I thought the ending, although gripping, did feel a bit rushed. But a great gothic read for Halloween. Purcell is becoming one of my favourite authors. Her books are very descriptive and this one in particular has a slight other worldly feel to it. I won't look at the Willow pattern in the same way for a long time! 7.5/10

Fear on the Phantom Special by Edward Marston - 7/10
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

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