29 August 2021

Review: A DIVIDED LOYALTY, Charles Todd

  •  this edition an e-book on Libby through my local library
  • Originally published 2020
  • #22 in Ian Rutledge series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is assigned one of the most baffling investigations of his career: an unsolved murder case with an unidentified victim and a cold trail with few clues to follow

A woman has been murdered at the foot of a megalith shaped like a great shrouded figure. Chief Inspector Brian Leslie, one of the Yard’s best men, is sent to investigate the site in Avebury, a village set inside a prehistoric stone circle not far from Stonehenge. In spite of his efforts, Leslie is not able to identify her, much less discover how she got to Avebury — or why she died there. Her killer has simply left no trace.

Several weeks later, when Ian Rutledge has returned from successfully concluding a similar case with an unidentified victim, he is asked to take a second look at Leslie’s inquiry. But Rutledge suspects Chief Superintendent Markham simply wants him to fail.

Leslie was right—Avebury refuses to yield its secrets. But Rutledge slowly widens his search, until he discovers an unexplained clue that seems to point toward an impossible solution. If he pursues it and he is wrong, he will draw the wrath of the Yard down on his head. But even if he is right, he can’t be certain what he can prove, and that will play right into Markham’s game. The easy answer is to let the first verdict stand: Person or persons unknown. But what about the victim? What does Rutledge owe this tragic young woman? Where must his loyalty lie?

My Take

A very well plotted story, lots of red herrings, and a number of plot strands. This is another of those series where it pays to read the books in order, so that you follow the various by-stories that earlier titles bring with them. 

Rutledge is a very competent investigator and eventually he manages to untangle the plot that Brian Leslie didn't want anybody to know about. But even then he nearly gets it wrong.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13
4.7, RACING THE DEVIL - #19 

4.5, THE BLACK ASCOT - #21

Review: THE DARK ANGEL, Elly Griffiths

  • This edition published by Quercus 2018
  • ISBN 978-78429-664-3
  • 346 pages
  • #10 Ruth Galloway series
  • author website

Synopsis (author website)

The tenth book in the Dr Ruth Galloway series sees Ruth wanting to escape from Norfolk and from  her complicated relationship with DCI Nelson, at least for a while. Her chance arrives with an invitation from Dr Angelo Morelli at Rome University. Morelli, with whom Ruth once had a fleeting affair, has found some Roman remains that seem to hold a mystery. He offers Ruth a role as a consultant and a free holiday in the picturesque hilltop town of Castello degli Angeli. 

Ruth and Kate fly to Italy without telling Nelson, who is preoccupied by a recently released killer and by Michelle’s pregnancy. But Ruth’s holiday is not the relaxing break she had imagined; an earthquake is followed by a murder that shocks the local community and stirs long-forgotten memories. And it’s not long before Nelson, accompanied by Cathbad, is on his way to Italy. But has Nelson ignored the dangers at home? 

My Take

This novel takes Ruth out of her familiar setting of North Norfolk, and potentially we have a story uncomplicated by her relationship with Harry Nelson.

Ruth hasn't told Nelson that she and Kate are having a fortnight in Italy so she can give some advice to a friend at the University of Rome. However an earthquake in the area Ruth is staying in, together with media reports of injuries, sends Nelson to fly to her side, much to her surprise. And then the local priest is murdered. The earthquake causes damage to the local church and bones that have been long buried are revealed.

So now I have caught up with the novels in this series that I had missed out on reading. The events of this novel have filled in the details of events I had half known about.

Excellent reading!

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

24 August 2021

Review: THE STONE CIRCLE, Elly Griffiths

  • This edition published in Great Britain by Quercus 2019
  • #110 in the Ruth Galloway series
  • ISBN 978-1-78648-730-8
  • 361 pages
  • Author website

Synopsis ( Author website)

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to ‘go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there’. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle’s baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?

Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh – another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle – trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.

As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn’t save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

My Take

Another page turner in this series, which I absolutely love.
I had discovered recently that I have missed reading a couple of titles, so I am remedying that.

There is something very satisfying about reading a series when you are familiar with so many of the characters who appear in one title after another, and also when there has been development in the mesh that holds the characters together.

And I love the merging of the plot with archaeological tidbits.

There are a couple of incidents in this novel when the author uses suspense very effectively.

And the question persists: do Ruth and Nelson have a future?

My rating: 5.0

I have also read

19 August 2021

Review: THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY, Agatha Christie

  • this edition, an e-book in Kindle (Amazon)
  • Miss Marple #2
  • originally published 1942
  • ASIN ‏: ‎ B0046H95MC
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (October 14, 2010)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 226 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing evening dress and heavy make-up, which is now smeared across her cheeks.

But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry?

The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery… before tongues start to wag.

My Take

THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY portrays Miss Marple very differently to THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE which was published 12 years earlier.

The village hasn't changed much in that period of time, although I suspect that not so much time has elapsed in"village time". This novel is perhaps set 2 or 3 years later than THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE. Among my reasons for saying that are that the vicar and his wife, who made their debut appearance in the earlier novel, now have a son, a toddler. Among the cast of characters are people whom we met in the earlier novel: Colonel Melchett, Sir Henry Clithering, the local spinster "cats", and Superindent Slack.

The body on the floor of the Bantry's library at Gossington Hall is quickly identified as a young dancer missing from the Majestic Hotel in nearby Danemouth. Dolly Bantry and Jane Marple go to stay at the hotel to see what they can find out about the dancer. Dolly in particular is determined to prove that Colonel Bantry has nothing to do with the murder. The local cats are already saying there's "no smoke without fire".

Meanwhile Sir Henry Clithering answers a call for help from his friend Conway Jefferson at the Majestic Hotel. Jefferson had been planning to adopt the young dancer. On his arrival Sir Henry recognises Miss Marple sitting in a chair in the hotel foyer, and she is drawn in as a private consultant.

As  the novel progresses the plot becomes more complex. Another body, another girl turns up in a burnt out car, and there are plenty of suspects and red herrings.

And I need to confess that when the murderer attempted to do away with Jefferson, I did not have a clue about who it might be.

We learn a lot about how Miss Marple's brain works in this novel. Unlike THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE there is no narrator, and we see the action from a number of points of view.

Miss Marple says

The trouble in this case is that everybody has been much too credulous and believing. You simply cannot afford to believe everything that people tell you. When there’s anything fishy about, I never believe anyone at all! You see, I know human nature so well.

My rating: 4.5

See Agatha Christie books I've read

My previous review, written 11 years ago.

17 August 2021

Review: INNOCENCE DIES, Colin Falconer

  • this edition large print, W F Howes Ltd, 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-00400-164-4
  • 386 pages
  • #2 in the Charlie George series
Synopsis (author website)
He loves surprises. But not this one.

A schoolgirl is found dead in a park in North London and DI Charlie George is not short of suspects – is it her stepfather? Is it a sex crime? Is it race-related?

Charlie finally thinks he has it sorted, with his killer bang to rights. But then his lawyer gets him free on a technicality.

And that’s just the start of his troubles.

He’s been a cop all his life, he thought he’d seen everything . . . But Charlie soon realises, he hasn’t seen anything yet. 

My take

This is a year or so on from #1 in the series, LUCIFER FALLS. Charlie has been on leave recuperating from an injury received at the end of that story. He has "lost" his mistress from that book and has taken up with Pippa, a school teacher in London.

A phone call in the early hours calls Charlie to a suspected homicide on a disused railway line in Finsbury Park. It is an 11 year old girl who has only been missing for a few hours. Her body was found by her father. The body has been found near the ventilation shaft for the underground, and that's where the brick that killed her is also found.
The family is an immigrant one from Sierra Leone. They have already had a hard life,
CCTV footage shows the girl being followed by a known paedophile, and Charlie is convinced he is the murderer. Charlie teams up with a DC Lovejoy whom we have already met in the first novel in the series.

In Chapter 4 we "meet" the murderer, who  tells us what he likes doing, where he likes hanging out, and that he has only murdered one person... so far. There will be more of this dialogue later in the book, but we are no wiser about the identity of the narrator.
So, on the surface, this is a police procedural, but it also about child abuse, community tensions and expectations,  and the nature of evil.
A very good read!

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

15 August 2021


  • this edition made available in my local library through Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (September 3, 2020)
  • 382 pages| 
  • ISBN 9781984880987 
  • Questions for discussion available
Synopsis (Random House)

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…

Every Thursday, four unlikely friends meet in the Jigsaw Room at the luxurious Coopers Chase Retirement Village to solve cold cases that have been languishing on the books for years. There’s Red Ron, the infamous former socialist firebrand, still causing trouble wherever he can; gentle Joyce, widowed, pining for another resident, but surely not as innocent as she seems; Ibrahim, a former therapist who understands the darker side of human nature; and Elizabeth? Well, no one is quite sure who she really is, but she’s definitely not a woman to underestimate. Though they may be in their seventies, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce, and Ron still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local property developer winds up dead, The Thursday Murder Club finds themselves in the middle of their first live case — can the four catch the killer before it’s too late? 

My Take

Though the book follows the four friends—Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, and Ron—solving the murder, the only first-person POV is Joyce’s via her diary. We meet Joyce right at the beginning and she introduces us to the others and keeps us up to speed with events.

Elizabeth and her friend Penny, a former police inspector who now lies comatose in hospital, founded the Thursday Murder Club, to investigate some cold cases that Penny never managed to solve. After Penny had a stroke, Elizabeth invited other residents to join her on Thursdays in the Jigsaw Room to continue with the "work" that she and Penny had started. Elizabeth visits Penny, who is on life support, regularly to report progress.

Meanwhile PC Donna De Freitas, recently transferred to the country from London, arrives at the Coopers Chase Retirement Village to give a talk on home security and so meets the members of the club. This meeting is important for her career.

The Coopers Chase Retirement Village, billed, when it was first built on land bought from a convent, as "Britain's First Luxury Retirement Village", has 300 residents, and a local property developer is aiming to add to it by demolishing an old cemetery. Ian Ventham, the property developer, decides to get rid of his builder partner. A few days later Ventham himself drops dead after a struggle with people at the cemetery and the Thursday Murder Club are all witnesses.

Each member of the Thursday Murder Club brings different strengths to the club, all useful in tracking down suspects, and following leads. 

This is a delightful read, full of humour, but also rapidly moving. The plot turns out to be quite complex, and there is more than one death.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Richard Osman is an author, producer, and television presenter. His first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, was a #1 million-copy international bestseller. Critics have already described The Man Who Died Twice as “his second novel.” He lives in London.

9 August 2021

Review: THE NIGHT HAWKS, Elly Griffiths

  • first published in Great Britain in 2021 by Quercus
  • ISBN 978-1-78747-781-0
  • 348 pages
  • #13 in the Ruth Galloway series 

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Dr Ruth Galloway returns to the moody and beautiful landscape of North Norfolk to confront another killer. A devastating new case for our favourite forensic archaeologist in this acclaimed and bestselling crime series.

The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor's death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder.

Nelson is called to an apparent murder-suicide of a couple at the isolated Black Dog Farm. Local legend talks of the Black Shuck, a spectral hound that appears to people before they die. Nelson ignores this, even when the owner's suicide note includes the line, 'He's buried in the garden.' Ruth excavates and finds the body of a giant dog.

All roads lead back to this farm in the middle of nowhere, but the place spells serious danger for anyone who goes near. Ruth doesn't scare easily. Not until she finds herself at Black Dog Farm ...

My Take

Another episode in this captivating series. It is set about a year later than the previous title. Ruth has left Cambridge and returned as Head of the Department of Archaeology at her old university. She has more or less picked up where she was about 3 years before. 

When two bodies are found, one a recent corpse on the beach, and the other a long dead skeleton in a burial mound, Ruth begins excavations. Dead bodies abound in this story, and Nelson seeks Ruth's advice on a number of aspects.

Among other things, I enjoy the ongoing relationships in these books, as well as the fact that they often combine North Norfolk legend/history with a crime fiction plot. The relationships mean that you get the best out of the stories if you read the books in order. There are characters who appear in several of the books. In the back of this title there is a Who's Who listing 8 of the characters who appear in the series.

The books are generally set in current time - there's mention for example of the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the next title in the series, THE LOCKED ROOM, is set during lock-down. 

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read

I have worked out that I have missed reading 2 in the series, and will take steps to remedy that:

10. The Dark Angel (2018)
11. The Stone Circle (2019)

3 August 2021

Review: LUCIFER FALLS, Colin Falconer

  • This edition large print from W F Howes LTD 2019
  • first published UK 2018 by Constable
  • ISBN 978-1-52886-149-6
  • 422 pages
  • #1 in the Charlie George series 
  • author website 

Synopsis (author website)

So many ways you could die. He knows every one of them.

A priest is found crucified in a derelict North London chapel.

“This is one for the ages,” DI Charlie George tells his squad next morning as they gather in the Incident Room at the Essex Road nick.

Their usual round is sorting cases of domestic violence, or a couple of stabbings on the estates.

When the case doesn’t get sorted, everyone gets nervous. And with good reason: it’s about to get a lot worse.

On Christmas night, a cop is found buried up to his neck on Hampstead Heath. He’s been stoned to death. Are the two murders related? None of his bosses wants to think so.

Charlie journeys into the city’s cold underbelly to try and find an answer to the madness before anyone else dies a martyr’s death…

Lucifer Falls is the first in Colin Falconer’s contemporary crime series, set in North London, featuring DI Charlie George.

My Take

This title got me in right from the beginning. At first Charlie George seems to be your run-of-the-mill flawed DI, and this seems to be yet another police procedural. But there is a lot more. Charlie seems to have had his fair share of failures, and a boss who wants to blame him for a few more. His original offsider goes out on stress leave when a kid he is chasing is run over by a bus, and Charlie is left to work with a woman newly posted to the Murder Squad. Charlie is married to the Murder Squad (although he has his "bit on the side"), and his background, experience and education keep him working at problems.

The plot got me in. The two initial murders, nicknamed Operation Galilee because the first is crucified, got me looking for connections, just as Charlie was doing. And I got there - at least I found the first connection - although it was Charlie's mother who gave us the second bit. Interestingly the author introduced readers to the murderer early on, and Charlie had seen him in passing, but the motives behind why he was doing what he was doing were well hidden until towards the end.

Here is a writer whose experience shines through (he is a prolific writer see Fantastic Fiction). The characters are well developed and the scenarios very believable. I'm sure I'll be reading the next.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Colin Falconer writes crime fiction and historical fiction. He has written twenty-six novels which have been translated into 23 languages.

In between leaving school and securing his latest publishing deal, he found time to
chase black witches across Mexico, travel the silk road, and occasionally play the
guitar in pubs. His only claim to fame from those days is completing all the verses of
‘All You Need is Love’ during a bar fight in the Stella Maris Sailors Club.

After a short stint in advertising he became a freelance journalist. He also worked in
radio and television before writing novels.

Colin Falconer (born 1953) is a pen name of Colin Bowles, who also uses the pen name Mark D'Abranville,[1] an English-born Australian writer. Works published under the pen name include contemporary and historical thrillers, and children's books. Under his original name he has also published books of satirical fiction; non-fiction books about language; television and radio scripts; and many magazine articles and columns.

DI Charlie George
   1. Lucifer Falls (2018)
   2. Innocence Dies (2019)
   3. Angels Weep (2020)
   4. Cry Justice (2021)


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