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Madeleine's 2019 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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Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Madeleine's 2019 reads

Post by Madeleine » Sat January 5th, 2019, 9:09 pm

January

The Insider by Mari Hannah - this is the second in the Stone and Oliver series set in Newcastle and Northumberland, and the new team that the detectives have inherited from some existing cases find they have a serial killer on their hands; and worse, it looks like one of the team is leaking confidential information to the Press. As well as inheriting a team who have to get used to a new boss, and are therefore unsure of their new leader's way of working, Stone has to contend with his partner Frankie's past bringing back bad memories, and we finally find out what demons are driving both Stone and Oliver, who have both suffered a tragedy in their respective pasts. Then the attacks take on a new dimension when it looks like one of the team may be responsible for the murders, as well as an attempt on the life of one of their own. It's a race against time to find the killer before he/she strikes again. This was another involving read, and the banter between the main detectives made it feel very real, however I didn't find it quite as gripping as the first book, but it's still an excellent series, with a great setting. 7.5/10

The Black Friar by S G Maclean - this is the second in the Damian Seeker series, a historical crime series set during the turbulent years of Oliver Cromwell's "reign" following the execution of Charles I and of course the English Civil War. Seeker is called to a body which has been found bricked up in a wall at the old monastery of Black Friars, the figure is wearing a friar's robe but is soon found to have died only very recently, yes he was murdered and is identified as one of the many "agents" who were operating at the time, keeping an eye on the various factions who wanted to get rid of Cromwell and re-instal either Charles II to the throne, or Jesus, who the Fifth Monarchists were convinced was waiting to take his rightful place ruling the country. Seeker and his men have enough on their hands keeping track of all these groups, but when children start going missing it looks as if the murder victim had been trying to carry out a separate investigation of his own. Following a promise to a figure familiar from the first book, whose maid is one of the missing children, Seeker finds himself involved in what seems at first to be a missing children case, but eventually seems to also be connected to the various anti-Cromwell plots. Overall I enjoyed this, although the convoluted storyline was a bit hard to follow at first, but eventually all become clear. The setting is good and the characters are convincing, and it's well-written too, with a bit of dry humour. A good series which would appeal to fans of C J Sansom. 8/10

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves - this is the latest in the series of novels featuring DCI Vera Stanhope (and on which the TV series "Vera" is based), and it's a solid police procedural, much like Vera herself who takes no prisoners and is determined to get to the bottom of any crime, regardless of who's toes she treads on. When one of her father's former colleagues, a corrupt cop now in prison, tells her he has some information on the disappearance of a man over 20 years ago, she's intrigued but apprehensive, especially as her father, a cop himself, may have been involved. And when another body is found along with the missing man's, it looks like a can of worms has been opened, and Vera steels herself for finding out some unsavoury details about her father and just what he and his so-called Gang of Four got up to in the 1990s. Now there are only 2 of the Gang left, and one of those is in the prison, and when another man, who used to do some "work" for the Gang, is also murdered, Vera and her team are desperate to track down the so-called Professor. Everything seems to lead back to the now defunct Seagull nightclub, but the more the team discover, the more threads there seem to be for them to unravel. I enjoyed this, Vera is very tetchy but cares about her team and her cases, and it's well-written, if a little more "earthy" than the TV series. 8/10

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Years ago I was given a lovely illustrated version of this book, which was gorgeous (I've still got it somewhere) but now that I've read the original novel I realise it was a very truncated version! A good introduction though, to the "real" book. I have mixed feelings about it, I found the first part unbearably twee and sometimes found it hard to figure out the way they spoke - maybe they did talk like that back then, as it's partly autobiographical and is based on the author's own life and her own sisters. I did nearly give up on it a few times but persevered and it did get a bit better, although I was surprised to discover that most of the TV and film versions, well the ones I've seen anyway, combine LW with the second book. Overall it wasn't bad, but I did find it very saccharine at times. 6.5/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2019 reads

Post by Madeleine » Mon February 4th, 2019, 9:49 am

February

The Frost Fair by Edward Marston - Edward Marston has written many historical crime series, and this book features architect Christopher Redmayne and his friend, constable Jonathan Bale, and takes place in the years following the Great Fire. Both men have different views of the current monarchy, Redmayne doesn't mind flamboyancy (after all, many of his customers are wealthy and part of his job in designing their houses is to show this), whereas Bale is very puritanical and disapproves of drinking, carousing and general hedonism. Despite this, the men are good friends and both are enjoying the legendary Frost Fair on the Thames when one of Bale's sons finds a body under the ice. The victim was an Italian fencing master, and his circle of friends and clients includes Christopher's dissolute brother Henry. When Henry's dagger is revealed to be the murder weapon, he's hauled off to Newgate and it looks like a open and shut case. But Christopher has his doubts, and when he's attacked twice after making his own enquiries, Bale is forced to admit that his friend is probably right, and is forced to investigate the case further himself. This was an enjoyable novel, the main characters were believable and likeable, although some of the supporting characters were a bit two-dimensional, and although there is obviously a back story here (it's not the first time Christopher's brother's lifestyle has got him into trouble, and it would be interesting to see how he and Bale became friends), but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. 7.5/10

The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson - this is the first in a new trilogy by the author of the Dark Iceland series, this is Hidden Iceland and the main protagonist is a female police officer called Hulde (sorry can't remember her surname!) who is, so she thinks, a few months away from retirement, and dreading the day when she has to leave, as her job is pretty much her life, following the death of first her young daughter and then her husband. But then her boss calls her into his office and tells her that her successor is starting in 2 weeks, all her cases have been delegated to her colleagues and she can leave right now if she wants to. Stunned, she asks for a little more time and so her boss gives her two weeks notice, and tells her that, to keep herself busy, she can look into any cold case she chooses. She immediately picks the case of Elena, a young Russian asylum seeker who had been found dead on a remote beach a few months earlier, but a quick investigation concluded that her death was suicide, case closed. But when Hulde discovers that Elena had been granted asylum, and that the investigation was at best sloppy and at worst left vital details off the record, she starts to dig deeper and, inevitably, makes some discoveries that others would like kept secret. And that's all I can really say, it's a fairly standard police procedural, but gradually we also find out about Hulde's own past, there are several twists along the way, and the final ending is quite surprising and certainly original. A quick enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book, which is a prequel. 9/10

The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden - this is the first book in the Winternight trilogy, set in Russia and featuring a girl called Vasya, who lives with her family in a small town in the countryside, and is viewed with suspicion as she is able to communicate with strange creatures, including the household demons. But the real trouble starts when her father re-marries; his new wife claims to see demons everywhere and is a religious fanatic who hates Vasya. When a prospective marriage offer is rejected, her parents threaten to send her to a convent, but before she can go she runs away into the woods, where the Frost Demon has other plans for her, for he sees her special qualities and also her potential. Meanwhile a freezing winter is taking it's toll, and various neighbours, having succumbed to either illness, the cold or old age, start coming back as vampires. Vasya and her brother manage to fight them off, but the threat is growing and eventually she has to decide whether to stay at home (and certain misery in a convent) or join the demons. I found this disappointing, although I liked Vasya's character I found it all a bit disjointed, I think perhaps I thought it might be more like the Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, but it seemed to go on forever. I may however give the sequel a go, as the early chapters at the end of this book were promising. Plus it was cheap on the web, and the cover is gorgeous.5/10

"The Winter Secret" by Lulu Taylor - there are two storylines to this novel, both revolving around a beautiful house in Dorset, Charlcombe Park. It's original owners were Golden Age film star Natalie Lowe, her husband, a Russian prince called Paul, and their daughter Xenia. Natalie had a glittering Hollywood career, but unable to cope with the pressures of fame she gradually succumbed to drink, pills and manic depression, further exacerbated by the horrendous treatments of the time until Paul leaves one day, and Xenia and Natalie are left at the house in poverty, with only a few residual fees from Natalie's films to occasionally sustain them, as well as an artistic commune who live there for a while. Eventually Natalie passes away, and wealthy businessman Charles Redmain buys the estate, allowing Xenia to live out her days in a cottage on the estate, which she does, reflecting on past glory and wondering what happened to her father. Charles restores the house, and when his first marriage breaks up his ex, Ingrid, continues to live there in another cottage. Then he re-marries and brings his new wife Buttercup (ridiculous name, it's a nickname!) to live at the house, and whilst she initially enjoys the luxury of having everything done for her, eventually she starts to get restless, and after suffering a miscarriage she tries to go back to work. But this falls through, but on a trip back to London where Charles has his office staff as well as a penthouse flat in Westminster, she starts to realise that she is being watched everywhere, and every phone call, email and credit card transaction is monitored and logged. She starts to wonder what really caused the break-up of his first marriage, and wonders just how far Charles will go to protect his property. I did find Buttercup a bit annoying at first, but thankfully she decides not to be a victim, and sets about trying to make a life for herself; she desperately wants to keep her marriage, but once she discovers a web of lies, duplicity and obsession, she realises she is becoming more trapped. I did start to like her as she fought for her individuality, and for her admirable qualities of trying everything to save her marriage, and I just wanted her to run as soon as she could! Charles was a rather two-dimension figure, I could almost see hear him sneering as he taunted poor Buttercup, and the ending wasn't a surprise, although there were a couple of twists. I did get to like Xenia as well after a while, although initially she seemed to spend far too much time wallowing in her mother's faded glamour, but as her life was spent following her mother around film sets and then looking after her, she probably would have had no idea had to live a "normal" life. An enjoyable read, if the ending was a bit predictable. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri May 17th, 2019, 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2019 reads

Post by Madeleine » Sun March 24th, 2019, 5:48 pm

March 2019

The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick - this is the second book in the trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and covers most of her turbulent marriage to Henry II, during which she was either pregnant, or recovering from a birth, and after John's arrival, she was told any more would kill her. Meanwhile Henry is becoming more and more controlling, and as the children grow up, they become increasingly disaffected by their father's reluctance to hand over any power to them. So the seeds of rebellion are sown, and Eleanor takes the brunt of the blame. This was another engrossing read, with the people all brought vividly to life, and a reminder of how women were treated back then, although the idea of pregnancy brain seemed to be popular even then! 7.5/10

"In the Woods" by Tana French - this is the first book in a crime series called The Dublin Murder Squad, and is set mainly on the outskirts of Dublin and focusses on two young detectives, Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, who are not only work partners but also best friends. When the call comes in that a young girl's body has been found at the site of an archaeological dig, they grab it quickly, but get more than they bargained for, as the case is a hard one, with every lead turning out to be at best only circumstantial. Even worse, it's a painful reminder of Rob's past, for although he passes himself off as an Englishman, in reality he was born and lived in the same small town, until the age of 12, when he and his two friends went into the woods one day to play, and only he returned. He's never been able to remember a single moment of that day, he was found fairly quickly with blood on his shoes, but apart from a few scratches he was unhurt, but catatonic with shock. His parents decided to move to England where he was sent to boarding school before joining the police. Now he's terrified that not only will his true identity be discovered (his real name was Adam Ryan), but also that he might find out what did happen all those years ago, for the murder victim's father was one of the local teenagers, who he and his friends used to spy on in the woods with their girlfriends. Will the man remember him? Was he responsible for whatever happened to his friends? This book works on two levels, at one it's a fairly conventional police procedural, and on another it's about Rob's past, and also his relationship with Cassie, who is the only person who knows his background. I found this an extremely well-written thriller, more character driven than many crime novels and very vividly described, although I did find Cassie's reaction to what happened between her and Rob a little bit melodramatic. 8/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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Madeleine
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Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2019 reads

Post by Madeleine » Thu April 4th, 2019, 10:31 am

April

"A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central" by Anja de Jager - this is the 2nd book in the Lotte Meerman series, again set in Amsterdam and it starts with what looks like a workplace accident when a decorator falls from a window of a new building he was working on. But when Lotte and his widow find a left luggage ticket in his jacket which leads them to a bin bag containing a skeleton, which he was seen storing on CCTV at the station, things take a strange turn. Initially it's thought that the body is one from the War, which had been found during the building works (which happened quite a lot in Holland), but when the pathologist finds an extra arm, which is much more recent, the case becomes even more sinister, especially when the arm is identified as belonging to a local criminal! I thought this book was much better than the first one, and Lotte, although likeable, hasn't learnt from her big mistake in the first book, when she started a relationship with one of the suspects! When an old schoolfriend turns up, she's again tempted, but really - twice in a row? Yes she's lonely and finding it hard to get along with her colleagues, but I did find it hard to accept that she'd jump into bed with another potential suspect! Apart from that quibble, this was an enjoyable thriller, and the series is developing nicely. But why do female characters always do stupid things? And yes she goes to investigate various deserted premises without waiting for backup first! 8/10

"High Force" by L J Ross - next in the series set in Northumberland, and this follows on directly from "Angel" which ended on a cliffhanger with one of Ryan's own team being abducted by his worst nightmare - the serial killer The Hacker, who has escaped from prison in an audacious break out attempt. It's a race against time as Ryan and his team struggle to rescue their colleague, and in the meantime the Hacker is still claiming more victims, and taunting Ryan every step of the way. To say this case is personal is putting it mildly. This was another hugely entertaining (albeit slightly gory!) read, with some good character development and a gripping final showdown. These books would make a great TV series! 8/10

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri - another case for the Sicilian inspector and his team when a local businessman is found murdered in his home, it turns out he was ruthless towards his competitors, and a total womaniser, therefore the list of suspects is endless, even his own son isn't too bothered by his father's violent demise. Then it turns out he was killed twice -first poisoned, then shot.... Montalbano has to sort out the mystery, as well as dealing with his own rather turbulent private life, with his whiny girlfriend Livia dropping in and out, only to argue and flounce off, and there's lots of lovely food as well! These stories aren't to be taken seriously, there are so many plot holes and breaches of police etiquette that Montalbano should have been fired years ago, but they're enjoyable light reads, with the feeling that good, in some form, will prevail in the end. 7/10

Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer by M C Beaton - latest in the series in which Agatha, increasingly fed up with the humdrum work at her detective agency and her distinct lack of a love life, finds herself embroiled in the heady world of bell-ringers, when she's asked to investigate the disappearance of the local bishop's former fiancée. The bishop is very easy on the eye, and whilst Agatha's head is first turned by him and then by a journalist, the bodies start to pile up. Is the bishop involved somehow? Attempts on Agatha's life follow, and she finally decides to do some proper detective work after an attempt on her own life. These books seems to be becoming more rushed with each one, although, despite the events in this book taking place over a period of about 18 months or so, Agatha and her friends never seem to age, in fact the books seem to be set in a time-warp. The plot follows the usual lines now, Agatha loses her head to one or more men, her friends and colleagues try to talk her out of another disastrous love affair, there's a lot of rushing around, various people come and go for no apparent reason at all, and the murder ofa policeman, who was already in trouble (and surely should have been sacked a long time ago) for selling stories to the Press. Then Agatha finally coms to her senses and actually does some work and solves the case. Although this is easy reading and doesn't pretend to be anything else, I'm finding Agatha is becoming rather tiresome now, she seems to have been in her early/mid fifties for about 10 years, and the whole formula is becoming increasingly tiresome and frankly boring, I think it's time Agatha either finally moved on (or retired!) 6/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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Madeleine
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Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2019 reads

Post by Madeleine » Thu May 9th, 2019, 9:17 am

May

The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine - this is another hugely enjoyable time-slip novel, this time set in Scotland (mainly Edinburgh) and features one of the author's own ancestors, her 5(I think) x great grandfather Thomas Erskine, who rose to prominence in UK politics and dined with the likes of the Prince of Wales. But his beginnings were humble, and he started as a midshipman on a merchant ship sailing the West Indies, where he made several acquaintances which were to dominate his life, some good and one in particular which literally continued to haunt him and his family through the centuries, as his own descendant, Ruth Dunbar, discovers when she goes to her father's house to clear it out following his death. She'd been estranged from him for years, especially since her mother died, and has been working down in London, but she has a nasty shock when she moves back in to her father's house, for his lodger and supposed carer, Timothy, claims to be his long-lost son, and that the old man left him the house. Ruth's solicitor promises to investigate and to try to obtain proof, meanwhile she can live in the house, but after a campaign of harassment from Timothy she goes to stay with a friend of hers at his house in the Borders. Meanwhile she's found some of her mother's property (valuables are missing, presumably sold by the odious Timothy) including letters and diaries written by Thomas and, later, one of his daughters (he had about 8 children, I lost count after a while!), and as Ruth reads the old memoirs, the past literally starts to come alive for her. But Thomas isn't the only ghost who visits her, and the other spirit isn't so benign. Worse, Timothy and his sister April are still planning to get the house from Ruth, but Timothy too finds himself haunted. I enjoyed this, it did get more bizarre as it went on, but some of it, especially at the start, is genuinely creepy. The setting, moving between Edinburgh and the Borders is great, and there's lashings of the author's usual atmosphere. And an interesting story too, as her ancestor's history and rise in society and politics is gradually revealed, although I also liked reading about his childhood in Scotland too. 8/10

Our House by Louise Candlish - following their marriage break-up, Bram and Fi Larson have separated and are co-parenting, taking turns to spend time at their lovely house, or the small flat they're renting. Then one weekend Fi goes away with her new lover, only to return early and find someone else moving into her house. It seems that Bram has sold the house without telling her, even attending the open house viewing and meeting the new buyers. The story is then told from both of their perspectives, some in the present as both parties try to come to terms with what's happened, and also the background, and what led to Bram doing such a monumentally outrageous act. Some of Fi's story is told via a podcast, with the accompanying comments from the Greek chorus of Twitter, which I found a bit irritating, but thankfully wasn't used too much. Most of my sympathy was with Fi, as Bram seems to be so full of self pity that he became quite tiresome, and I couldn't help but think that he got what he deserved. The bad guys, as it were, are also totally unlikeable, and although there were some good twists along the way, and it's certainly a page-turner, I felt that the ending let it down a bit, it felt rushed and a bit too simple. So it loses a point for that, otherwise it would have been 9/10! 8/10

Date with Malice by Julia Chapman - the 2nd in the Dales mystery series and this time Samson (a suspended Met Police officer who's returned to his hometown under a bit of a cloud) and Delilah (a local woman who has set up her own dating agency) finds themselves investigating suspicious goings on at the local old people's home, where Samson's dad is one of the residents. Meanwhile he's still trying to get accepted by the locals after being away for so long, and Delilah's ex husband is threatening to sue her for custody of....their dog! On top of that Christmas is coming and, inevitably, Samson and Delilah find themselves becoming increasingly attracted to each other. Another enjoyable instalment in this "cosy crime" series. 7/10


Water Proof by Chris Crowther - this was given to me as a thank you present from a friend for looking after her dog recently for a weekend! She went to the Norfolk Broads and this book is set on the Broads, it's a cosy crime series with the main character being former Met police officer Jack Fellowes, who's now left the Force and done what he always wanted to do, ie live in the Broads, spending most of his time on the water, where he works as a Ranger. When an extremely unpopular local man is found murdered on his floating museum, there's a long list of suspects - the young eel fisherman who received a jail sentence thanks to trumped up charges, the young widow whose husband, a local boatyard owner, committed suicide after the man made him bankrupt (and who is also now threatening to force the widow out of their home), the local councillor with whom he's been having an affair and is all but blackmailing into pushing through his dodgy business deals....etc. Even the local vicar is in the frame and it's all down to Jack and the local police who try to figure out who the culprit is, even though it seems to be an open and shut case. An entertaining , gentle read with some lovely illustrations too. 7/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2019 reads

Post by Madeleine » Wed June 5th, 2019, 7:46 pm

June

Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon - Florence is in her 80s, and when we first meet her she's lying on the floor of her flat in an old people's home, having fallen over, and whilst she waits for help, she looks back over her life and recent events at the home, which have turned her world upside down. It all started when a new man arrived, calling himself Gabriel Price, but Elsie is convinced he is really Ronnie Butler, an old friend from her younger years who supposedly drowned sixty years ago. Then strange things start happening in her flat, she's convinced that things are going missing or being moved around eg the elephant ornament which always faces the same way, and then there's the incident involving several Battenburg cakes (hence the UK cover). No one believes her at first, and, terrified she'll be sent to the dementia home instead, she insists that something sinister is going on. Then a weekend in Whitby changes everything, and Florence's memory of a long buried incident finally comes back to her, and she starts to worry that she may be in danger. I wasn't sure what to make of this, it's quirky and quite funny at times, but also sad, although there are some lovely friendships, I especially liked her friend Jack, though I had my suspicions as to Elsie's true identity. I did find that the middle section dragged a bit, and it only really came alive when the group went to Whitby, and discovered the truth about the real Gabriel Price. 6.5/10

The Mechanical Devil by Kate Ellis - when two people are shot dead near the site of an old manor house, the police assume that the main victim was event planning organiser, Andrea, who had made a few enemies in business, and that the other, a male walker, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore had to be eliminated too. But as the police delve further, there seems to be a connection between Andrea and missing local girl, Jocasta Overard, whose father is a prominent local MP, tipped for big things in Parliament. Why was Jocasta seen getting out of Andrea's car not far from where the woman's body was found? And then there's another link, to Xander Southwark, a former fraudster who now runs a wellness (I hate that word!) spa nearby, which Andrea was on her way to when she was murdered? And if that wasn't enough, Wesley's wife Pam seems to have a stalker, something she doesn't need, as she's recovering from cancer treatment. This was another enjoyable instalment in the Wesley Peterson series, which got more involving after a rather slow start. Although I guessed parts of the story - the stalker's ID, to me, was pretty obvious all the way along, and there were other clues that I'm surprised the police didn't pick up sooner. But I found the accompanying historical story, that of the so-called Mechanical Devil, fascinating, and would love to see the little monk in action! 7/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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