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Madeleine's 2012 Reads

Keep track of what you read in 2012. One thread per member, please.
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Madeleine
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Madeleine's 2012 Reads

Post by Madeleine » Fri January 20th, 2012, 8:23 pm

January

The Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson - the second in her Harriet Westerman/Gabriel Crowther series, and this book is set in London, where Harriet is staying whilst her husband, James, is being treated for a head injury sustained in a freak accident on board his ship; ironically, after a heroic sea-battle. When a man's body is pulled from the Thames, Harriet and her anatomist friend, Gabriel, examine the body and their investigations lead them to the opera, and into a world of spies, and a trail which brings them closer to home than they could ever have imagined. Although well-written, I found the first half a bit long-winded, but things picked up in the last third of the book and it became quite gripping. Some new characters, such as the Tarot-reading Jocasta, her dog and the little boy, Sam, who becomes her helper, are introduced, and there are also many familiar people from the first book. Not as good as the opening book in the series - Instruments of Darkness, which was one of my favourte books of last year - and perhaps a bit convoluted, but a good story, and the next instalment - Island of Bones - looks very promising. 7/10

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson - modern thriller in which a woman, Christine, wakes up every day not knowing who she is, where she is or even how old she is, for she is suffering from a rare form of amnesia. Gradually, with the help of a specialist, she starts to slowly re-discover her life, but with each new revelation comes the realisation that something is not right, and she sets out to find out exactly what caused her to be in this state, and to find out the truth about her life. The book is very well-written, and Christine's plight is well-depicted, and inevitably sets up questions regarding the importance of memory, identity and, most importantly, truth - what do we believe and how do we know what is true and what isn't? It's difficult to say much without giving too much away, but this book would appeal to all those who love a good psychological thriller, although the ending does descend into fairly standard "woman in peril" territory, and feels a little rushed. 8/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Thu February 2nd, 2012, 7:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Darkest Evening" by Ann Cleeves

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Post by Madeleine » Wed February 8th, 2012, 5:24 pm

February

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - Diana Bishop is an American who is spending time in Oxford's Bodleian Library studying alchemical texts. One day, a rather odd manuscript seems to just leap into her hands; puzzled, she studies it for a while and then returns it to the stacks, and thinks nothing more of it. Until the library suddenly starts to become full of readers and students who aren't quite human - for Diana is one of a long line of witches - and her family, the Bishops, are one of the most powerful witch families - and suddenly every witch, daemon and vampire is interested in Diana, and that strange manuscript, which it turns out has been lost for centuries, and has had a spell put on it to stop anyone from finding it. Not only do they want the manuscript, but they also want Diana, and the only thing stopping them is Professor Matthew Clairmont - a vampire geneticist, who tries to protect her, and along the way they inevitably fall in love, putting both their families in danger. This is a fast, fun read which moves from Oxford to France and then the US where we meet Diana's family, both past and present and there are some amusing as well as tense encounters. Although it dragged slightly around the middle section, I enjoyed it, and it would appeal to fans of the urban fantasy genre; one of the things I liked about it is that our hero and heroine are slightly flawed, and the bad guys (and women) have a real sense of threat and menace, without being too over the top. The sequel is due out in July 2012.8/10

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver - it's 1937, and Jack, desperately broke, lonely and fed up in London, joins an expedition to the Arctic to study the weather and geology for a year. Two of the party are forced to drop out before they even get there, and after a couple of months another two have to go back to civilization too, leaving Jack on his own except for 8 huskies. Worried as to how he'll cope with the perpetual darkness of the Arctic winter, he also has to face the growing threat that something else is with him; he's always felt there was a sense of menace about the area, and the crew of the ship that brought him and the team to their destination couldn't wait to leave, and insisted on sleeping on the ship every night. As darkness descends, the sense of danger and threat grows ever closer, and he becomes more fearful and desperate for his friends to return. I loved this book, it's well-written, easy to read and genuinely creepy without being too gruesome, and very atmospheric - the way in which the tension and eerie sensations are built up reminded me a little of The Woman in Black. Perfect for a cold winter's night. Fab! 10/10

Murder in Midwinter by Lesley Cookman - the third in the crime series set mainly in a village in Kent, or in this case two villages, where amateur theatre director Libby Serjeant finds herself once again unofficially investigating a suspicious death after a body is found in a nearby derelict theatre. Together with her friend Fran - who is a "developing" psychic - they try to get to the bottom of the mystery, as well as organising the local pantomime, and their friends' upcoming civil partnership ceremony. It's an easy read, although I found the final denoument a bit rushed, but the characters, although slightly cliched, are quite likeable and there's some nice humour too. Would probably appeal to fans of M C Beaton. 7/10

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris - first in the Lily Bard mystery series - there are 5 in all - takes place in the small Arkansas town of Shakespeare, where Lily has lived for several years following a horrific attack on her when she was living in Memphis. However she has made a new life in Shakespeare and keeps herself pretty much to herself, with very little family contact and no real friends to speak of. However when she witnesses a body being dumped in the nearby park, she suddenly finds herself unwittingly investigating the murder, for the victim is the landlord of the neighbouring block of flats, and she knows all the residents, who are all suspects as the landlord wasn't exactly popular, because she cleans their apartments for them. She also discovers that several people are interested in her for various reasons, not all of them friendly, and is also terrified that her traumatic past will come out, which explains some of her actions at the start of the book, although not quite all of them. I enjoyed the book, it's a very quick read - little more than 200 pages long - and quite well-written and Lily is an appealing heroine. It's quite different to Harris's better known Sookie Stackhouse books; not so much humour and definitely nothing supernatural - these are straightforward crime stories, in the mould of perhaps Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Wed February 29th, 2012, 11:28 am, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Darkest Evening" by Ann Cleeves

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Post by Ludmilla » Wed February 8th, 2012, 6:38 pm

[quote=""Madeleine""]February

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver - it's 1937, and Jack, desperately broke, lonely and fed up in London, joins an expedition to the Arctic to study the weather and geology for a year. Two of the party are forced to drop out before they even get there, and after a couple of months another two have to go back to civilization too, leaving Jack on his own except for 8 huskies. Worried as to how he'll cope with the perpetual darkness of the Arctic winter, he also has to face the growing threat that something else is with him; he's always felt there was a sense of menace about the area, and the crew of the ship that brought him and the team to their destination couldn't wait to leave, and insisted on sleeping on the ship every night. As darkness descends, the sense of danger and threat grows ever closer, and he becomes more fearful and desperate for his friends to return. I loved this book, it's well-written, easy to read and genuinely creepy without being too gruesome, and very atmospheric - the way in which the tension and eerie sensations are built up reminded me a little of The Woman in Black. Perfect for a cold winter's night. Fab! 10/10[/quote]

This must be the one I've heard compared to The Terror. Sounds like a good one.

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Post by Madeleine » Sat March 17th, 2012, 8:46 pm

March

A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore - saga set before, during and after WW2 - sort of dual time-frame but most of the book is actually set in the past, with an old lady telling her story to a young woman who has contacted her following her father's death; she has been given lots of letters and photos by her stepmother, and been put in touch with the old lady as she was a close friend of her father's mother - and this narrative device is part of the problem; for in the present day story it becomes apparent who survived the war, therefore reducing a lot of the suspense, especially in the last third of the novel. It's an easy read, and tells of young Beatrice's friendship with the enchanting Wincanton family, whom she meets by chance on a beach in their native Cornwall. Their friendship grows, but their lives take fairly different paths once the war starts, with Beatrice especially wanting to make an important contribution to the war effort. It's a predictable tale; I found I pre-empted events pretty much all the way through, and even guessed the twist about halfway into the book. An OK read but nothing special. 6.5/10

Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon - modern crime set in Venice. A colleague of Commisario Brunetti asks him to have a chat with the wife of a friend of his, who is worried that her father-in-law may carry out the threats of violence that he's been making towards her husband. Brunetti visits the f-i-l at his glassmaking factory on the island of Murano, and whilst the old man is extremely volatile and unlikeable, there is nothing that Brunetti can do at this stage. Then the factory's night-watchman, who has been trying to prove for years that illegal practices at the factory resulted in his daughter being born severely learning disabled, is found dead, and Brunetti finds himself unofficially investigating the death, and also becoming caught up in the ongoing environmental dispute between the factories and local government. It's a slow-burning mystery, in fact the first half of the book did feel, in places, a bit like padding out, but it's enjoyable following Brunetti and his colleagues as they try, as unobtrusively as possible - after all, this isn't an official case of foul play as such - to find out what really happened to the night-watchman. A languid mystery, not for those who like their thrillers fast-paced, but an improvement on the previous book (Blood from a Stone). 7.5/10

A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin - 2nd book in the Song of Ice and Fire series; I found this not quite as engrossing as the first book - there are slightly fewer main characters in this one, with some of the major players barely appearing at all, and to me it feels like an "interim" kind of book, in that things seem to build up all the way through, with an admittedly exciting battle towards the end. GRRM has also got into the habit of lists - lists of the various sers, the various houses and their symbols, lists of ships - some of which I skim read, although this is only a fairly small quibble overall. If there is a central figure, I'd say it was Tyrion, and there was one part where I wanted to cheer him, and another where my heart was in my mouth. He's easily the book's best character and the one who kind of forms the emotional core of the book. Elsewhere, Arya, who I found tedious in the first book, starts to come into her own in this one; her sister Sansa has precious little to do, and Daenerys is just as boring as she was in the first book. There's more of a fantastical element to this one too, which may or may not appeal to some readers; personally I found the wolf dreams a bit repetitive after a while. But some of Martin's descriptions are wonderful, I particularly liked Harrenhal. Roll on Book Three! 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri March 30th, 2012, 4:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Madeleine » Wed April 4th, 2012, 10:43 am

April

Death in August by Marco Vichi - first book in a series set in Florence, featuring Inspector Bordelli, who is called out when an elderly lady is found dead in her home. Initially her death seems to have been caused by an asthma attack, but other circumstances - and the conviction of the lady's housekeeper that her family were involved - lead the policeman to start a murder inquiry. The main suspects are the woman's two nephews and their wives, for she was very wealthy; along the way we also meet her eccentric brother, a couple of burglars - one of whom is an excellent cook - and get to learn a lot about Bordelli's background, his experiences during the War, and a nasty incident in his childhood. He's a likeable but flawed character, and I quite enjoyed the book, although some of the dialogue wasn't very convincing, and there were far too many references to how hot and sweaty everyone was (it's sweltering). But I thought it was promising and hope to read the next book in the series. 6/10

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss - first in a series of 3 books about Lucifer Box, who is an artist/spy/secret agent in London, and is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearance of several vulcanologists. The trail leads him from London society to Naples and, via various un-salubrious establishments, to the heart of the famous volcano itself, where he undercovers a dastardly plot to cause mass destruction. It's basically an enjoyable period romp with nods to both Sherlock Holmes and James Bond - our hero loves the good things in life and is something of a ladies' man, well anyone's man actually - and also a bit of Indiana Jones too. It's a fun read, written in the style of the period (about 100 years ago) and doesn't take itself too seriously. 8/10

The Hollow by Nora Roberts - second in the Sign of Seven trilogy (the first is Blood Brothers which I read a few years ago). An OK read, but I wasn't that impressed by the first book, which is why I left it so long to carry on with the saga. When childhood friends Gage, Cal and Fox swore a blood oath at the Pagan Stone when they were ten, they unleashed a demon which returns for one week every seven years thereafter. At the time this book is set, the third visitation is imminent, and already strange things in the small town of Hawkins Hollow are starting to happen - dead birds, car accidents, people beating each other up - and the three men once again find themselves at the centre of it all. This time, though, they are determined to beat the demon once and for all, only there is now another complication - the three of them are all in love, but even their women are connected to the events in the Hollow somehow. I do wonder how the author is going to string this out over 3 books - 2 would have sufficed - and some of the main characters are quite irritating! However it passes the time. 6/10

The Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts - 3rd in the Sign of Seven trilogy and, as I thought, a rather drawn out finale to the series. The story could easily have been covered in 2 books, there was a lot of repetition - how many more times can the author have one of her characters say "we have to fight it at the Pagan Stone"? Some of them were so annoying that at times I found myself wishing that the demon would come and devour them! And then it all seemed to end very abruptly. An OK read but nothing special, and certainly not the best in this genre (urban fantasy). 6/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Thu April 26th, 2012, 1:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Darkest Evening" by Ann Cleeves

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Post by Madeleine » Sat May 5th, 2012, 5:00 pm

May

The Blackhouse by Peter May - first in a trilogy set predominantly on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland (home to the famous Callanish standing stones, and the Lewis Chessmen). Fin MacLeod couldn't wait to leave Lewis as soon as he was old enough to, and attended university in Glasgow, before working as a detective in Edinburgh. Whilst investigating a particularly gruesome murder in Edinburgh, he hears of an almost identical killing that's taken place on Lewis and, due to the similarity, he is sent to the island to see if the killer could be the same person in both cases. His return opens old wounds and brings back many memories, some good but most bad, and it soon becomes obvious that events in his past have a resonance to the present, especially as the Lewis murder victim was his old nemesis, who bullied him (and most of the other kids) at school. After a fairly traditional (and gory!) start, the book changed from a fairly standard police procedural to the story of Fin's childhood, growing up and adolescence, and had some interesting things to say about island traditions. It's different to the normal detective novel, focussing for about 2/3rds of the book of Fin's past; perhaps there could have been a little bit more of the murder investigation, which at times almost seemed to take a backseat, although everything did come together at the end. Although I thought the ending was slightly melo-dramatic, overall I enjoyed the book - it was well-written and the character of Fin is flawed but likeable, and sympathetic, and the island of Lewis is almost a character in it's own right. It looks like being a promising series. 8/10

Darkside by Belinda Bauer - modern crime thriller set in an isolated village on Exmoor. After a woman who was left paralysed following a riding accident is found smothered in her bed, a murder investigation is started, and when another woman, this time suffering from dementia, is also discovered murdered, the police realise they may have a serial killer on their hands. A team from the local main town, Taunton, is brought in to help local constable, Jonas Holly, who is sidelined to little more than the task of being the doorstep policeman. However, as he grew up in the village and knows everyone, he believes his local knowledge could help, although it becomes apparent that someone is watching him and taunting him and this, coupled with his seriously ill wife and bullying DCI (who provides much of the dark humour), threatens to send him over the edge. It's a tense, well-written pyschological thriller, although I felt the ending was a bit rushed and slightly inconclusive. However, it's well worth a read, and there is another book due out featuring the same young policeman, so this seems to be part of a series. It would appeal to fans of Peter May's "The Blackhouse", which by coincidence was my previous read, and there are definite similarites between the two. 7.5/10

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox -Gothic mystery set in late 19th century London and Herefordshire. 17 year old Phoebe is thrilled to visit Wilton's Music Hall, especially as her home life with her fanatically religious mother is rather boring to say the least. However her aunt Cissy, a singer, invites her to along to one of her performances, after which Phoebe meets Nathaniel Samuels and his son Joseph. Both men are to have a profound effect on her life, especially when she goes to the Samuels' country estate to be a companion to Nathaniel's sickly wife. I won't say anymore as, in true Victorian Gothic style, there are several twists and turns and revelations in the story, although if you're familiar with this genre, you'll probably suspect at least some of them. However it's an enjoyable story with some great characters; I especially liked the old family friend, Old Riley - Cissy's dresser and occasional medium - and Phoebe is a very appealing person; I really wanted her to be happy! I also liked the scenes at Wilton's Music Hall - which still exists and can be visited today - which I thought were very evocative and atmospheric. The author's website is also well worth a visit, and she has some good links to other sites for those interested in Victoriana.7.5/10

The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards - modern crime set in England's Lake District. Daniel Kind impulsively gives up his academic job in Oxford, and moves to a tiny village in Cumbria with his new girlfriend Miranda. He used to holiday in the area, and his father was a policeman who investigated a murder that took place when Daniel was a boy and, although the murderer was never caught, another local boy - and friend of Daniel's - who was a prime suspect and was found dead not long after the murder took place, was named as the killer and the case was closed. However policewoman Hannah Scarlett is asked to head up a new cold case unit, and this murder is one of her first cases. Daniel was never convinced of his friend's guilt, and he and Hannah both start looking into the incident in their own way, inevitably opening up a can of worms. Hannah also used to work with Daniel's father, who became something of a mentor to her in her early days in the police, and Daniel is also desperate to find out more about his father, who left his family for another woman, and hardly had any contact with them afterwards. I found this a fast, easy read, and despite a rather melo-dramatic ending, I enjoyed it. It's the first book in what looks to be a promising series. 7.5/10

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch - enjoyable tale set in modern day London about a young police constable, Peter Grant, who suddenly discovers he is actually a wizard and is singled out for training by a mysterious inspector. Yes there are definite shades of Harry Potter here, but it's much more grown up and rather gory in places, but amusing too. First book in a promising series. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Sat June 2nd, 2012, 11:00 am, edited 5 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Darkest Evening" by Ann Cleeves

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Post by rebecca » Sun May 6th, 2012, 3:44 am

[quote=""Madeleine""]January

The Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson - the second in her Harriet Westerman/Gabriel Crowther series, and this book is set in London, where Harriet is staying whilst her husband, James, is being treated for a head injury sustained in a freak accident on board his ship; ironically, after a heroic sea-battle. When a man's body is pulled from the Thames, Harriet and her anatomist friend, Gabriel, examine the body and their investigations lead them to the opera, and into a world of spies, and a trail which brings them closer to home than they could ever have imagined. Although well-written, I found the first half a bit long-winded, but things picked up in the last third of the book and it became quite gripping. Some new characters, such as the Tarot-reading Jocasta, her dog and the little boy, Sam, who becomes her helper, are introduced, and there are also many familiar people from the first book. Not as good as the opening book in the series - Instruments of Darkness, which was one of my favourte books of last year - and perhaps a bit convoluted, but a good story, and the next instalment - Island of Bones - looks very promising. 7/10

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson - modern thriller in which a woman, Christine, wakes up every day not knowing who she is, where she is or even how old she is, for she is suffering from a rare form of amnesia. Gradually, with the help of a specialist, she starts to slowly re-discover her life, but with each new revelation comes the realisation that something is not right, and she sets out to find out exactly what caused her to be in this state, and to find out the truth about her life. The book is very well-written, and Christine's plight is well-depicted, and inevitably sets up questions regarding the importance of memory, identity and, most importantly, truth - what do we believe and how do we know what is true and what isn't? It's difficult to say much without giving too much away, but this book would appeal to all those who love a good psychological thriller, although the ending does descend into fairly standard "woman in peril" territory, and feels a little rushed. 8/10[/quote]

I thought the same about Before I go to Sleep....Plus I also guessed the ending by the end of the first chapter, but it had a good pace and I hoped that I had got it wrong, but no I had guessed it right. I think it will make a good movie.

Bec :)

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Post by Vanessa » Sun May 6th, 2012, 9:48 am

I think it's Nicole Kidman who is playing Christine. I really enjoyed it, too.
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Post by Madeleine » Mon June 11th, 2012, 7:40 pm

June

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - so famous I don't think I need to summarise the plot! It was interesting to finally read it after seeing several film and TV versions over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed it - a good ripping yarn. 8/10

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry - difficult to describe without giving too much away, but we gradually get the family history of a woman called Towner, recovering from an operation and who returns to her home-town of Salem when her beloved grandmother disappears. Inevitably Salem's history of witchcraft is part of the story along with Towner's family history, but as Towner says in the first chapter, she's a notorious liar with a history of mental health problems, so sometimes it's hard to know what to believe. Throw in a pack of semi-wild golden retrievers (yes really!), a kindly cop and a modern-day witch with a great sense of humour, religious fanatics and a sad family history and you have quite a story. I thought it was well-written, despite meandering slightly, and the ending felt a little rushed, but she certainly looks to be a promising author, and this book was initially self-published and has become a word-of-mouth success. 8/10

Now You See Me by S J Bolton - London-set novel in which a team of detectives searches for a serial killer, who seems to be copying Jack the Ripper's murders - the killings take place on the anniversary of Jack's most (in)famous slayings, and mirror his M.O. Young policewoman Lacey Flint finds herself a witness, as the first victim actually died in her arms, and when she admits to having something of an obsession with the original Ripper, she is asked to join the team. There is tension between her and one of the senior detectives on the case, especially when it becomes apparent that Lacey has an eventful past. To say anymore would be to spoil things, but the plot twists and turns, with layers of the story gradually being revealed. I did more or less work things out by the end, but found this to be a well-written page-turner, with interesting settings and scenarios, and a promising start to what looks like being a new series, as both the main characters are back in the author's next book, Dead Scared. 9/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Tue June 26th, 2012, 1:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Madeleine » Wed July 4th, 2012, 4:09 pm

July

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - this is a lovely, magical book, although I thought the middle section could have been a bit tighter. It's the story of the eponymous circus, which is only open from dusk til dawn, and appears unannounced, and no one knows where it will turn up next, except for a group of aficionados known as the Reveurs. It's also the story two young magicians, who are pitted together in a competition; they don't know exactly what the contest is, how or when it will end, but it gradually becomes apparent that the fate of the circus is bound up with these two magicians, who also, just to complicate things further, fall in love. The descriptions of the circus are lovely; it is all a bit Harry Potter-ish to begin with but it's also a story of people's lives, hopes and ambitions, and the circus becomes a character too. It's the author's first novel, and is the result of another NaNoMoWri (hope I've got that right!) contest. There are a few flaws, but it's hard to believe that this is her debut, and she shows great promise. A film adaptation is planned; surely it has to be directed by Tim Burton. Have your red scarf ready! 8/10

Demelza by Winston Graham - second novel in the Poldark saga, and this one starts with Ross and Demelza happily settled at Nampara, awaiting the birth of their first baby. But it's not long before their happiness is threatened - by long-standing family feuds, and problems at the local mines, and even murder. Ross finds it increasingly difficult to cope, especially when disaster strikes close to home, and the book ends on a sad note. Well-written and compulsive, this is a fabulous family saga, and the late 18th century is effortlessly and atmospherically brought to life. 8/10

Death comes to Pemberley by P D James - I quite enjoyed this, it's basically a sort of homage to P & P (there's lots of back story for those who haven't read it) with a murder thrown in. Darcy and Elizabeth have been happily married and living at Pemberley for several years, and are preparing for a ball to be held at Pemberley when Lizzie's disgraced sister, Lydia, rolls screaming that her husband, Mr Wickham, has been murdered. Well he hasn't, but his close friend Captain Denny is dead, and a bloodstained Wickham is discovered beside the body, crying that he has killed his friend. It's up to Darcy and friends to solve the mystery and, although it's rather clunky with a fair bit of repetition, it's still a fairly enjoyable, light romp, with a nice ending for romantics. James's work probably won't win over any Austen fans, and it's not up to her usual standard for her crime novels, but she obviously had fun writing it, and it works fine as a holiday/long journey read. 7/10

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce - first in a series of modern crime novels set in Cambridge. This was a fairly standard police procedural, and I guessed the killer's identity straightaway, and although I don't think it was particularly well-written (and there were loads of print errors) it was still a fairly enjoyable read, fine for a holiday or long journey. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Mon July 30th, 2012, 8:48 am, edited 3 times in total.
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