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Madeleine's Reads 2021

What have you read in 2021? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5798
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Doll Factory" by Elizabeth Macneal
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reads 2021

Post by Madeleine » Fri November 5th, 2021, 9:52 am

November

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell - I pretty much tore through this book, it's a very easy read, with the chapters alternating between the story of child spirit medium Pearl, and silhouette cutter Agnes, who narrates her sections. It's set in Bath, but it's not the Bath of Jane Austen, instead this is a sinister, grimy city, and is far removed from the genteel tourist image. Agnes is scraping a living cutting silhouettes, but when two of her clients are found dead under very suspicious circumstances, she begins to wonder if she is being targeted, for what reason she does not know. Her closest friend is her brother-in-law Simon, who was married to her sister Constance, who was killed in an Accident (as it's referred to in the book), which Agnes herself barely survived. When strange things start to happen, she reluctantly consults the White Sylph, a frail waif-like albino child who, under the guidance of her half0sister Myrtle, leads seances for wealthy clients, for it's the 1800s and the Victorians were of course fascinated by all this. But when she strikes a deal with Pearl to conduct a private séance, she begins to wonder what exactly she's unleashed. It's difficult to say more about this book without giving away spoilers, but there was one twist I didn't see coming, and another which I did start to suspect about halfway through. But unfortunately the ending let it down, it finished very abruptly, and I must admit I did feel slightly cheated, as it's very ambiguous, to the point of being vague. A shame as it has marred an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable read. 7/10

The Shrine by L J Ross - this is the 16th book in the series, and starts literally with a bang, as explosions rock the sacred site of Durham Cathedral, and when the smoke clears, it transpires that a priceless artefact - St Cuthbert's Cross - has been stolen from it's supposedly secure display case. Ryan's pregnant wife is seriously injured in the chaos, and when a fellow officer is shot dead on her doorstep, his team find themselves dealing with two high profile cases. At first there seems to be no connection between the two incidents, but as the bodies start to pile up it seems they may well be linked. This was another enjoyable story, which looks like it's setting up another possible story arc, can't say any more for fear of spoilers! 7.5/10

The Cook of the Halcyon - Andrea Camilleri this is the penultimate book in the long running series about Inspector Montalbano, set in Sicily. As usual a series of relatively minor crimes which seem to be unconnected, and the suicide of a boatyard worker, all reveal a bigger picture, when Montalbano finds himself investigating the brief appearance of a beautiful sailing ship, The Halcyon, which docks briefly, takes on a large amount of suppliers, and then sails off again, with no passengers, except occasionally a couple of beautiful young women..... Salvo's curiosity gets the better of him and soon he finds himself on the edge of something much bigger than he realised, plus it seems that his days may be numbered in the police force. this looks like it could be his last stand, as he puts himself in real danger to solve the mystery of the Halcyon. This was another entertaining read, although it does meander at first once the plot gets going it tightens it's grip, and in amongst the humour (there are some very funny scenes which I can't mention as it'd be a huge spoiler) there is real tension too. 8/10
Currently reading: "The Doll Factory" by Elizabeth Macneal

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5798
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Doll Factory" by Elizabeth Macneal
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reads 2021

Post by Madeleine » Mon December 13th, 2021, 10:11 am

December


The Warrior's Princess by Barbara Erskine
- teacher Jess wakes up disorientated following an incident after a college disco, she suspects her attacker maybe a colleague and resigns, and goes to her sister's isolated house in Wales to recuperate. She soon starts to sense a presence and strange things start happening - noises, objects being moved etc, and she keeps hearing a young girl's voice crying in the nearby woods. After a bit of research she realises that her "visitor" is a young Welsh girl, Eigon, who along with her mother was kidnapped by invading Roman soldiers, and taken to Rome, where she's reunited with her father, the warrior king Caratacus, and although the family are installed in a luxurious villa, essentially they're under house arrest. But while out one day Eigon recognises one of the soldiers who attacked her during the raid in Wales, and he also sees her, and is set on silencing her for good. Meanwhile back in the present day Jess goes to Rome to stay with her sister, who's gone there for the summer, and her friend Kim, and to continue her research into Eigon's story, and the girl continues to visit her. However she also has another visitor, her suspected attacker from that night in London. She believes that her own assault is what links her to Eigon, and the reason why the girl is asking her for help across the centuries. Jess also tries to escape her attacker, but instead of doing the sensible thing and going into hiding, she does exactly the opposite. And that was as far as I got, it was actually halfway through but I'd been wondering how the author was going to keep the story going for another 200 pages, and I lost interest in the story, and Jess was annoying me too much! So I gave up. This is the only Erskine book which I haven't finished. DNF 2/5

A Noel Killing by M L Longworth - this is a Christmas set adventure in the beautiful town of Aix-en-Provence, featuring local examining magistrate Antoine Verlaque and his wife Marine, as the town prepares for Christmas. When a local expat American businessman collapses and dies at a carol concert, it's initially thought to be a heart attack, but once it's revealed that he was poisoned, a murder hunt is launched, with the whole town, as well as visiting traders at the Christmas market, is under suspicion. Then Verlaque realises that maybe the American, who wasn't very popular, wasn't the intended target. It soon becomes apparent that the reason lies within someone's past, and Verlaque, with the help of the police commissioner and Marine, sets out to find out the truth. This was an enjoyable mystery, it's part of a series, and fits perfectly into the cosy crime genre. There's also a lot of food, and Verlaque and Marine are likeable characters. 7/10

Dreaming of Christmas by T A Williams - Journalist Zoe Lumsley is devastated when her live in boyfriend, Grant, announces just before Christmas that he's been seeing another woman, and is moving out - that day. Fast forward one year later and Zoe is invited to a Christmas reunion of her university housemates, at an exclusive hotel in Austria, which is owned by one of those housemates, a computer nerd (her term for him) called Billy, who has made a fortune in tech and who is paying for their stay over Christmas. Zoe accepts the invitation with misgivings, as one of those housemates is Grant - they met at uni and were a couple until he dumped her. And at first it seems her worries have good reason, as Grant seems to be trying to worm his way back into her affection during their holiday. But there are other people around, and some of the other friends have issues of their own, and all of them seem to come to Zoe at some point, for her advice. But what should she do about her own dilemma? This was a nice read, with lovely snowy scenery, a lively black labrador and several romantic entanglements, but no surprises and I guessed how it was going to turn out. A nice gentle read for Christmas. 7/10

Murder after Christmas by Rupert Latimer - this is the British Library Crime Classics offer for Christmas 2021, but sadly I gave up on it just over halfway through, yes another DNF. I did try, especially as the author died tragically young, but found it pretty much unreadable. I did hope that perhaps once Great Uncle Willie got murdered it would pick up, but sadly the police were just as annoying and two dimensional as the old man's family and their friends and relatives who all showed up over Christmas. Normally the Christmas books are enjoyable, if inevitably somewhat dated, but this was terrible. Sorry! 2/10
Currently reading: "The Doll Factory" by Elizabeth Macneal

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