18 May 2024

Review: MURDER ON THE FARM, Kate Wells

  •  this edition read on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C727GM8K
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (September 4, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 346 pages
  • #1 Malvern Farm Mystery series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Lambing season always brings the unexpected… But no one expected murder

Jude Gray never thought she’d find herself widowed and running a working farm full-time, but here she is, living in the small Malvern village her husband Adam spent most of his life in.

After a particularly gruelling lambing season, she is looking forward to some time off, but there’s no rest for the wicked, especially when she finds the body of one of Adam’s oldest friends on her farm.

Unimpressed with the local constabulary's efforts, Jude starts an investigation of her own. But as the body count rises, danger creeps ever closer to Malvern Farm.

A killer is on the prowl. And all that stands in their way is one woman – and her dog.

My Take

A well constructed cozy mystery with a number of plot strands. I thoroughly enjoyed it and liked the central character Jude Gray. Life has not been easy for Jude since her husband Adam died of cancer but she is making a go of her sheep farm with the help of a shepherd Noah.

But now her best friend Sarah is in trouble with problems that Jude had not even guessed existed. And then the bodies start to pile up, and the perpetrator is someone Jude has always trusted.

My rating: 4.5 

About the author

Kate grew up in Malvern on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border and still spends much of her time there. It is her heart's home and the muse for a lot of her writing.

She began her adult life training as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital and then moved to Reading where she took a teaching degree.

When she took a break to have her two daughters she began creating stories and hasn't stopped writing since!

Having spent time living and working on farms she developed a love of the rural life and often dreamt of running a sheep farm, especially when she married the son of a farmer. It wasn't to be though, so instead, she lives out her farming dreams through researching and writing her books.

These days she's often found in a field talking to the sheep, or out on the Malvern Hills walking her border collie cross.

17 May 2024

Review: HIGH PROFILE, Robert B. Parker

  •  made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • published originally in 2007 by No Exit Press
  • e-book published 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-84344-327-8
  • #6 in Jesse Stone series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The murder of a notorious public figure places Paradise, Massachusetts, police chief Jesse Stone in the harsh glare of the media spotlight.

When the body of controversial talk-show host Walton Weeks is discovered hanging from a tree on the outskirts of Paradise, police chief Jesse Stone finds himself at the center of a highly public case, forcing him to deal with small-minded local officials and national media scrutiny. When another dead body - that of a young woman - is discovered just a few days later, the pressure becomes almost unbearable.

Two victims in less than a week should provide a host of clues, but all Jesse runs into are dead ends. But what may be the most disturbing aspect of these murders is the fact that no one seems to care - not a single one of Weeks's ex-wives, not the family of the girl. And when the medical examiner reveals a heartbreaking link between the two departed souls, the mystery only deepens.

Despite Weeks's reputation and the girl's tender age, Jesse is hard-pressed to find legitimate suspects. Though the crimes are perhaps the most gruesome Jesse has ever witnessed, it is the malevolence behind them that makes them all the more frightening. Forced to delve into a world of stormy relationships, Jesse soon comes to realize that knowing whom he can trust is indeed a matter of life and death.

My take:

This is the first novel that I have read by this author.

His style is very distinctive - the story is mainly told by dialogue through the main characters, with just a little descriptive writing. There is a little humour too, mainly in Jesse Stone's dealing with his offsider Suitcase Simpson who does a lot of the leg work, but is not yet accorded the title of detective.

Running in the background is Stone's own relationships with his ex-wife whom he is finding it hard to beak off relationships with, and Sunny, the woman he would like to develop a relationship with.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Robert B. Parker began writing in 1971 while teaching at Boston's Northeastern University. Now he is acknowledged as the dean of American crime fiction and was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America (2002). His novels featuring the wise-cracking, street-smart Boston private-eye Spenser have earned him a devoted following and reams of critical acclaim. The Spenser character inspired the television series Spenser: For Hire and a number of made-for-television films.

16 May 2024

Review: TO THE RIVER, Vikki Wakefield

  • this edition supplied by Text Publishing
  • published 2024
  • ISBN 9781922790590
  • 347 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

The Kelly family has always been trouble. When a fire in a remote caravan community kills nine people, including 17-year-old Sabine Kelly’s mother and sister, Sabine confesses to the murders. Shortly after, she escapes custody and disappears. Recently made redundant from marriage, motherhood and her career, journalist Rachel Weidermann has long suspected Sabine made her way back to the river—now, twelve years after the ‘Caravan Murders’, she has the time and the tenacity to corner a fugitive and land the story of the year.

Rachel’s ambition lights the fuse leading to a brutal chain of events, and the web Sabine weaves will force Rachel to question everything she believes. Vikki Wakefield’s compelling psychological thriller is about class, corruption, love, loyalty, and the vindication of truth and justice. And a brave dog called Blue.

My Take

Twelve years after she, 17 years old, confessed to the 'Caravan Murders', Sabine Kelly wants to tell her story and obtain justice for her mother, her sister, and the other 7 innocents who died then. An opportunity presents itself when Sabine realises that journalist Rachel Weidermann is living in the property next to Sabine's grandfather Ray on the river. The time has come to reveal the truth. Ray is dying. The policeman who lost his son in the fire has retired. And Rachel has time on her hands.

From the start Rachel sees Sabine as steps to her own redemption in the journalistic world where her career has flagged. She had begun an investigation a few years ago, but didn't get very far because she couldn't locate Sabine. But now Sabine has re-appeared. There is a reward on Sabine's head and Rachel could simply turn her in. But there is more money to be made from the story. But what Rachel doesn't realise is that just as she is playing Sabine, reeling her in, so Sabine is manipulating Rachel to her own ends.

The author has created her setting from the Murray River backwaters in South Australia. Sabine and Rachel are the primary voices telling the story, while the time frame flits between 2007 and 2019. The characters are much alive, also including Sabine's dog Blue.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

13 May 2024

Review: THE MARLOW MURDER CLUB, Robert Thorogood

  • This edition available as an e-book from Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B088F6TLVX
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HQ (January 7, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 348 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

To solve an impossible murder, you need an impossible hero…

Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy. She lives on her own in a faded mansion just outside Marlow, there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink, and to keep herself busy she sets crosswords for The Times newspaper.

One evening, while out swimming in the Thames, Judith witnesses a brutal murder. The local police don’t believe her story, so she decides to investigate for herself, and is soon joined in her quest by Suzie, a salt-of-the-earth dog-walker, and Becks, the prim and proper wife of the local Vicar.

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

When another body turns up, they realise they have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the puzzle they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might never escape…

My Take

Suffice it to say, that all the way through the reading of this novel, I thought that I had somehow read it before, but I never checked if I had, until I came to write this review, and then I discovered that I actually had. My earlier review is here.

Anyway. it seems that I have enjoyed it a little more this time around.

And did I find it derivative of THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB, a question that seems to worry many readers, afraid of wasting their time if they take the plunge? The answer to that is No. Similar in plot lines but not derivative. It stands well on its own.

My rating: 4.6

Review: THE SUMMER PARTY, Rebecca Heath

  • This edition made available by my local library as an e-book on Libby
  • Published     05 Jan 2023
  • Format     Ebook (Epub & Mobi)
  • Extent     416 pages
  • ISBN     9781804540978
  • Imprint     Head of Zeus -- an Aries Book
  • Publisher     Bloomsbury Publishing

Synopsis (publisher)

Perfect families are only as perfect as their best kept secrets.

Summer, 2000
The Whitlam siblings have it all and sixteen-year-old Lucy only wants one thing – to be close to them. Soon she's lazing around their impossibly large pool, wearing Annabel's expensive clothes and having secret rendezvous with Harry, until at their lavish clifftop party she sees something that could jeopardise it all.

Winter, 2020
One failed marriage later, Lucy is back in town and quickly lured back into the Whitlam's shiny world. But when a body washes up on the beach and someone seems determined to frame her for murder keeping their secrets this time could cost her everything.

Now that summer is over is she with them or against them? 

My Take

Lucy came to stay with her grandmother for the summer when she was 16. The Whitlams lived in the white mansion on the hill in a rural town on the Yorke Peninsular in South Australia.  Lucy's grandmother's cottage was next door. Alongside the three Whitlam siblings Lucy was an unsophisticated teenager and she idolised them. Lucy's grandmother worked as a cleaner for the Whitlam family and she warned Lucy not to get too friendly with them.

At the end of the summer, on the last night Lucy was there, the mother, Brooke Whitlam, left home forever and Lucy witnessed something without really realising what she had seen.

Twenty years later Lucy's grandmother has died and Lucy comes back to clear out the cottage. A foot is washed up under the jetty on the Whitlam's property, and it is identified as Brooke's. Lucy renews her "friendship" with the Whitlam siblings, their father, and the local policeman.

This is Rebecca Heath's debut novel, and though her later novel THE DINNER PARTY is much better, THE SUMMER PARTY is very readable and the plot is well constructed. 

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


8 May 2024

Review: TAKEN, Dinuka McKenzie

  •  This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • (Detective Kate Miles Book 2)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CF4XCZVB
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Canelo Crime (January 25, 2024)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 294 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Every parent's worst nightmare. A case too close to home.

Elissa Ricci left her baby in the bassinet while she took a shower. Ten minutes later, the back door was open and Sienna was gone.

Detective Sergeant Kate Miles has just returned from maternity leave when she’s thrown into the case. Kate suspects Sienna’s parents are somehow involved in their daughter’s disappearance. But what would drive parents to risk never seeing their child again?

The frenzied Australian press put the force under pressure like never before. Kate is already linked to one media storm and her station chief is looking for any excuse to kick her off the case. If she can’t uncover the truth about what happened to Sienna, Kate stands to lose her career as well as an innocent life.

My Take

An absolutely gripping read.

Kate is struggling with her return to work from maternity leave, but she knows how she would feel if her baby Amy was suddenly taken.  There are so many other factors in Elissa Ricci's life, not the least being that her husband Aaron, supposedly at a conference, can't be contacted.

Kate's husband Geoff can't understand Kate's need to be at work, and to give her all to the job. And then other personal factors poke their noses in.

There are many false trails, many suspects, and battles with her colleagues add to Kate's exhaustion. And all the time the clock is ticking.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.6, THE TORRENT - Kate Miles #1

5 May 2024

Review: SOME OF US ARE LOOKING, Carlene O'Connor

  • this book supplied by my local library
  • #2 in the County Kerry Mysteries
  • published 2023 by Kensington Books
  • ISBN 978-1-4967-3755-7
  • 330 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

In the powerful tradition of Ann Cleeves and Louise Penny, USA Today bestselling author Carlene O'Connor’s new Ireland-set series continues, bringing together complex characters with a focus on a female vet who returns home to the village where she grew up and must reckon with her past while untangling mysteries in the present.
In Dimpna Wilde’s veterinary practice, an imminent meteor shower has elevated the usual gossip to include talk of shooting stars and the watch parties that are planned all over Dingle. But there are also matters nearer at hand to discuss—including the ragtag caravan of young people selling wares by the roadside, and the shocking death of Chris Henderson, an elderly local, in a hit-and-run.
Just hours before his death, Henderson had stormed into the Garda Station, complaining loudly about the caravan’s occupants causing noise and disruption. One of their members is a beautiful young woman named Brigid Sweeney, and Dimpna is shocked when Brigid later turns up at her practice, her clothing splattered in blood and an injured hare tucked into her shirt.
Brigid claims that a mysterious stranger has been trying to obtain a lucky rabbit’s foot. Dimpna is incensed at the thought of anyone mutilating animals, but there is far worse in store. On the night of the meteor shower, Dimpna finds Brigid’s body tied to a tree, her left hand severed. She has bled to death. Wrapped around her wrist is a rabbit’s foot.
Brigid had amassed plenty of admirers, and there were tangled relationships within the group. But perhaps there is something more complex than jealousy at play. The rabbit’s foot, the severed hand, the coinciding meteor shower—the deeper Dimpna and Detective Sergeant Cormac O’Brien investigate, the more ominous the signs seem to be, laced with a warning that Dimpna fears it will prove fatal to overlook. 

My Take

I feel that I should point out that the books in this series are not cosies, but quite noir police procedurals. They are built around the town of Dingle and involve a veterinarian Dimpna Wilde, recently returned from Dublin to take over her father's practice, and Detective Sergeant Cormac O’Brien. They are an unlikely couple, in their middle years.

Both the books that I have read so far in this series have been well plotted, and I would advise starting with the first in the series NO STRANGERS HERE to make sure you pick up on character development and other plot lines. 

There were plenty of clues in this one about who the murderer was, but also plenty of enticing red herrings. The next in the series, due to be published later this year is YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR.

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read

County Kerry Mystery series

Irish Village Mystery series


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