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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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Posts: 5675
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Intrigue in Covent Garden" by Susanna Gregory & "The Hunting Party" by Lucy Foley
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Madeleine's 2020 reads

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


"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

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