25 September 2018

Review: DARK WATER, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by Sphere in 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-7148-6
  • 352 pages
  • #3 in the Erika Foster series
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

Beneath the water the body sank rapidly.  She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins.  The missing girl who made headline news when she vanished twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she discovers a family harbouring secrets, a detective plagued by her failure to find Jessica, and the mysterious death of a man living by the quarry.

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.

My Take

Twenty six years after she disappeared on her way to a friend's birthday party only a few houses away from home Jessica Collins' skeleton is discovered in a flooded quarry only a mile from her home. The quarry had been searched without success during the search for Jessica. Eventually the police charged a paedophile living nearby but he had an alibi and successfully sued the police for damages. The case remained unsolved and the detective in charge had a breakdown and took early retirement.

Detective Erika Foster determines that she will solve this case once the skeleton is identified, but is advised by her seniors that this is a poisoned chalice. It is a cold case that could really end up going nowhere. She is determined to investigate every possible avenue, going right back to the beginning.

Once she interviews what remains of Jessica's family, someone else begins to watch Erika and to make sure her investigation fails.

Some very interesting characters. Most readable.

I think I'll be looking for another in this series.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
My books have sold over 2.5 million copies, and have been translated into 28 languages. In addition to writing crime fiction, I have published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. I am British and live in Slovakia.

23 September 2018

Review: ODD CHILD OUT, Gilly Macmillan

  • this edition published by littlebrown.co.uk 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-349-41294-8
  • 382 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two best friends. One terrible event.

Abdi Mahal and Noah Sadler have been inseparable since they met. They've stuck together, even when their peers have excluded them. But when a horrifying incident leaves Noah in a coma and fighting for his life, Abdi is too traumatised to say anything about what happened.

DI Jim Clemo, freshly returned to work after an enforced leave of absence, is tasked to investigate. And against a backdrop of a city where racial tensions are running high, he must determine what really happened to drive two teenage boys into a situation so desperate.

Everything rests on one of the boys talking.

But one can't talk.

And one won't.

My take

This is the second novel featuring DI Jim Clemo but the first I've read.

It is set in the author's home city of Bristol.

The action of the novel takes place over the period of a week and the story is told from several points of view with often only the content or tone to indicate who the narrator is.

Abdi and Noah are 15 year olds who have been inseparable since they began secondary school. Noah has health issues and has spent a lot of time in hospital. His father is a photographer who spends a lot of time away. Abdi is Somali, his father is a taxi driver, his mother does not speak English, and his sister is at tertiary college. Noah's mother is not convinced his friendship with Abdi is the best he can do, but Noah is very dependent on him.

On the night when the story starts Noah's father has a photographic exhibition which both boys attend. Some of the photographs are of Somalian refugee camps and Abdi finds them upsetting.  After they get back to Noah's place the boys go out, at Noah's instigation, unknown to his parents, and this sets off a train of events with dreadful consequences.

This novel has a number of thought provoking themes: relationships in the work place, journalists who use events to enhance their own careers, the effects of ill health on families and those who are afflicted, the search by teenagers for identity and rites of passage.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Gilly Macmillan grew up in Wiltshire, and was pleasantly surprised when her family moved to California when she was a teenager. She studied History of Art at Bristol University before doing an MA in Modern British Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.  Her career path has included working at the Burlington Magazine, the Hayward Gallery and teaching photography at a sixth-form college in Swindon. Her favourite job was working in a cafĂ© opposite Keplers bookshop in Menlo Park, CA. She currently lives in Bristol with her husband Julian and their three children.

20 September 2018

Review: BRING ME BACK, B. A. Paris

Synopsis (publisher)

Finn and Layla: young and in love, their whole lives ahead of them. Driving back from a holiday in France one night, Finn pulls in to a service station, leaving Layla alone in the car. When he returns, minutes later, Layla has vanished, never to be seen again. That’s the story Finn tells the police. It’s the truth but not the whole truth.

Twelve years later, Finn has built a new life with Ellen, Layla’s sister, when he receives a phone call. Someone has seen Layla. But is it her or someone pretending to be her? If it is her, what does she want? And what does she know about the night she disappeared?

My Take

An intriguing plot with plenty of mystery for the reader to work on.

Twelve years ago Layla disappeared after an argument with Finn on the way back from a holiday in France. But what Finn told the police about what happened that night was not the entire truth. The story then jumps from the night of the argument in 2006 to the current time in 2018.

In the chapters in Part One, Finn is the narrator, and the chapters switch rhythmically between "Now" and "Before". Now it appears that Layla may have returned, confirmed by a sighting, a trail of Russian dolls, and text messages on Finn's phone. At first Finn is not sure who is sending the text messages and begins to think they must be from Layla. We always know whose voice it is, but just to make sure we don't get lost, each chapter heading shows the narrator's name.

Part Two introduces Layla's voice in alternate chapters, with Finn's thoughts in the other chapters.

It is an interesting structure but towards 250 pages I began to get impatient for the plot to conclude.
My brain was working overtime to rationalise the plot strands, to come up with a scenario that fitted all strands. When I finally got to the end, I discovered I was partly right and partly not. I guess that is the sign of a good story.

The other thing that the reader has to take into account is the significance of the title, something we often neglect. This was a title with acute meaning.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, B. A. Paris, grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked in finance and as a teacher. She has recently moved back to England.

17 September 2018

Review: THE BURNING CHAMBERS, Kate Mosse

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 4829 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle (May 8, 2018)
  • Publication Date: May 8, 2018
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0774FM62G 
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Bringing 16th century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse's The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties....

Carcassonne, 1562: 19-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father's bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: "She Knows That You Live". But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou's help if he is to get out of La Cite alive.

Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further. Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power....

My Take

Once again I am on the outskirts of crime fiction. This is more a historical novel, but there is plenty of mystery.
I have seen several times that it is also the beginning of a series of 4 books "with the next three due out in 2020, 2022 and 2024".

Set in France in 1562 at the start of the Wars of Religion, it begins with a Prologue set in Franschhoek South Africa in 1862, 300 years after the main action of the book. Thus setting up a mystery for the scope of the remainder of the series.

Within the major canvas of the wars which involved Catholics vs Huguenots is this story of the struggles within one Toulouse family, surely one mirrored all over France as Church and State struggled for power.

Central to the story is the true identity of one of the characters.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.4


 I have also read
4.4, THE TAXIDERMIST'S DAUGHTER

About the author
Kate Mosse is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 38 languages. Her fiction includes the novels Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007), The Winter Ghosts (2009), Citadel (2012), The Taxidermist's Daughter (2014), and The Burning Chambers (2018), as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013). Kate is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Women's Prize for Fiction and in June 2013, was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She lives in Sussex. 

16 September 2018

Review: CAT O'NINE TALES, Jeffrey Archer - audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

Cat O' Nine Tales is the sixth collection of irresistible short stories from this master storyteller. These 12 yarns are so satisfying because they are ingeniously plotted, include richly drawn characters, and have deliciously unexpected conclusions. They feature the mad, the bad, and the dangerous to know, as well as some more poignant and telling characters.

Many of these stories came to Archer while he was incarcerated for two years in five different prisons, and so they have a prison theme. Others were inspired after he was released. All in all, they confirm his position as one of the best storytellers alive.

My take

Another impressive set of short stories, a couple really almost novellas.
Beautifully and cleverly narrated.
I really am hooked on Archer's short stories.

The list of stories
    The Man who Robbed his own Post Office
    Maestro
    Don’t Drink the Water
    It Can’t Be October Already
    The Red King
    The Wisdom of Solomon
    Know What I Mean?
    Charity Begins at Home
    The Alibi
    A Greek Tragedy
    The Commissioner
    In The Eye of the Beholder

They range from a tale of ‘The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office’, to the story of a company chairman who tried to poison his wife while on a trip to St Petersburg – both with unexpected consequences. In another, ‘Maestro’, an Italian restaurateur ends up in jail, unable to explain to the tax man how he can own a yacht, a Ferrari and a home in Florence, while only declaring a profit of £70,000 a year.

‘The Red King’ is a tale about a con man who discovers that an English Lord requires one more chess piece to complete a set that would be worth a fortune. In another tale of deception, ‘The Commissioner’, a Bombay con artist ends up in the morgue, after he uses the police chief as bait in his latest scam. ‘The Alibi’ reveals how a convict manages to remove an old enemy while he’s locked up in jail, and then set up two prison officers as his alibi. In total contrast is the accountant, who, in ‘Charity Begins at Home’, realises he has achieved nothing in his life, and sets out to make a fortune before he retires.

And then there is Archer’s favourite, which he came across after leaving prison, ‘In the Eye of the Beholder’, where a handsome premier division footballer falls in love with a 20-stone woman … who just happens to be the ninth richest woman in Italy. -
this extract from Archer's website.

My rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed
A TWIST IN THE TALE
4.5, ONLY TIME WILL TELL- #1 Clifton series
4.7, TELL TALE 

9 September 2018

Review: THE SHROUDED PATH, Sarah Ward

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 481 KB
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (September 4, 2018)
  • Publication Date: September 4, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07D3F8BZT
  • #4 in the Connie Childs series
Synopsis (Amazon)

The past won't stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2017: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: 'Find Valerie.' Mina's elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs' old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home.

My Take

Susan definitely saw 6 girls enter the tunnel and then only 5 emerged at the other end. She walked through the tunnel in trepidation but did not find the missing girl. For her it simply confirmed the sinister and evil nature of the place. After that she avoided going near the tunnel and and years passed, then decades.

Six decades later Mina's mother Hilary is hospitalised with an aggressive cancer. She has a raging temperature which doesn't seem to respond to treatment. Hilary becomes frightened when she receives a visit from someone from her past. She is unable to explain much to her daughter Mina about who this person is. At one stage she tells Mina that she killed Valerie, that Valerie is dead, and then asks Mina to find Valerie. When Hilary dies Mina becomes determined to find Valerie, but then the possibility arises that Hilary has been murdered.

This story is a real page turner. The story is full of mysteries and fascinating scenarios.

My rating: 4.8

Read another review at Clothes in Books

I've also read
4.8, IN BITTER CHILL
5.0, A DEADLY THAW  

7 September 2018

Review: THE PARIS SECRET, Karen Swan

 Synopsis (publisher)


Not every door should be opened . . .

With stunning locations and page-turning tension, The Paris Secret is an intense and gripping tale from bestselling author Karen Swan, perfect for fans of Santa Montefiore.

Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.

High-flying fine art agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long.

Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren’t all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family’s affairs - but just what is he hiding?

My Take

Here is another of those novels that sits on the outer boundary of crime fiction. Certainly crimes have been committed, long ago, perhaps even the biggest crime against humanity of all. But this novel is about whether a family will benefit from the aftermath of those crimes, or is what has happened in the past, in this instance, not what it seems?

A family's lawyers are contacted by some burglars to say that they have found a long untouched apartment. A junior clerk not well versed in the protocols to be followed in this case contacts the family and events escalate from there. He has sent them the key to the wrong apartment.

The family is controlled by a matriarch, her husband long dead. He has left instructions that the apartment is not to be opened by the family until after his wife's death. So, the family employs a fine art agent to explore and document the contents of the apartment which appears to be scores of painting and other art treasures untouched for over 70 years.

The author says the story is based on a newspaper report about a similar situation that has occurred in Paris.

There is a lot of human interest in this story particularly about how the younger members of the family will cope with their family's history about which they have, until this point, known nothing.

Very readable.

My rating 4.4

About the author
Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and a puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her books include Christmas at Tiffany’s, Summer at Tiffany’s, The Perfect Present, Christmas in the Snow, Christmas on Primrose Hill, The Paris Secret and The Rome Affair.

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