31 July 2023

Review: TWO GIRLS DOWN, Louisa Luna

  • this edition made available by my local library
  • published by Double Day USA 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-385-542469
  • 304 pages #1 in the Alice Vega series 

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

When two young sisters, Kylie and Bailey Brandt, disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated family hires an enigmatic bounty hunter from California, Alice Vega, to do what the authorities cannot. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemics, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan, to cut through the local politics.

With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a complex web of lies, false leads, and dangerous relationships to locate both girls before time runs out and the girls are gone forever. 

My Take

This novel is the first in the Alice Vega series and covers Vega's back ground, and the creation of her partnership with former cop Max Caplan. We also learn about Vega's relationship with her "researcher" (The Bastard) and also the beginnings of the relationship between the private investigators and the police. We learn quite a lot of background about both Vega and Caplan.

Two young girls go missing from the car park while their mother is in a shopping centre. With the police, Vega and Caplan discover that the missing girls are the most recent in a number of cases. As Vega and Caplan come to terms with creating their own set of rules, between them they bring fresh eyes and strategies to following up leads.

This is a real page turner. Recommended.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.6, HIDE OUT - #3

30 July 2023

Review: MURDER AT THE WAKE, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01F7QMC8Y
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (July 3, 2016)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 275 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1533117829
  • Book 7 of 21: Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates

Synopsis (Amazon

ONE WEEK AFTER THE DEATH of his 93-year-old twin brother, the reclusive Declan Thomas O’More is found murdered in his study at the ancestral family estate, rambling and isolated Crummock Hall. Suspicion immediately falls upon his five great nieces and nephews, who between them stand to inherit the considerable proceeds of their grandfather’s will - along with a valuable library of antiquarian books, a collection that is Declan’s lifetime work.

And yet each member of this generation - which includes a famous actor and a successful author - is apparently wealthy in their own right. Why would any of them murder their great uncle?

DI Skelgill and his team must unravel a mystery that not only harks back to the tragic drowning of the children’s parents in Crummock Water in the 1980s, but may also have its roots in the despicable Triangular Trade that enriched so many British and Irish merchant families in the eighteenth century.

My Take

Another fairly complex plot, with a bit thrown in about Skelgill's favourite past-time, fly fishing, and quite a lot of  British historical information.

There are references to a Christie-like plot with a murder taking place at a remote ancestral estate, blocked in by snow, and Skelgill arriving by helicopter.

As usual, just when you think you have this puzzle solved, you realise two things: 1) that you are only half way through the book and so what is going to occupy us for the rest of the text; and 2) the author has just thrown another line of investigation in, and are we going to have to go overr everything again?

I must admit that the final solution was not one I had seen.

A good series: but take the trouble to start from the very beginning!

My rating: 4.6

I've already read

25 July 2023

Review: HIDE OUT, Louisa Luna

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0385545533
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0385545532 
  • Number Of Pages: 368
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Doubleday (March 8, 2022)
  • Alice Vega #3

Synopsis (publisher)

Alice Vega has made a career of finding the missing and vulnerable against a ticking clock, but she's never had a case like that of Zeb Williams, missing for thirty years. It was 1984, and the big Cal-Stanford football game was tied with seconds left on the clock. Zeb Williams grabbed the ball and ran the wrong way, through the marching band, off the field, and out of the stadium. He disappeared into legend, replete with Elvis-like sightings and a cult following.

Zeb's cold trail leads Vega to southern Oregon, where she discovers an anxious community living under siege by a local hate group called the Liberty Boys. As Vega starts digging into the past, the mystery around Zeb's disappearance grows deeper, and the reach of the Liberty Boys grows more disturbing. Everyone has something to hide, and no one can cut to the truth like Alice Vega. But this time, her partner Max Caplan has his own problems at home, and the trouble Vega finds might be too much for her to handle.

Louisa Luna understands suspense, tension, and character like only the best writers in crime fiction do--and she may well write the best interrogations in the genre. Hideout is pure adrenaline and Luna's most intimate thriller yet, a classic cold case wrapped in a timely confrontation with a terrifyingly real network of white supremacists and homegrown terrorists. 

My Take:

Generally I like to read an author's books in order as you know, but this time it was a question of when the library had the books available. So I came to Vega and Caplan "cold", so to speak, and it took a little time to work things out, and become familiar with Alice Vega.

Vega has taken on a case to discover what happened to Zeb Williams when he disappeared thirty years before in unforgettable circumstances. When businessman Anton Fohl asks Vega to take on the case he warns that it is likely to be the biggest case of her career. She is unaware of the Zeb Williams story. Fohl tells her that his wife used to be Williams' girl friend and he had not told her that he was asking Vega to take on the investigation. He gives Vega a photograph taken of Zeb Williams the last time he was recognised in a town in Oregon. Eventually the photo is her starting pointing. Ilona, the town where Zeb was last seen.

From the very beginning people in the town are unwilling to share what they know with Vega. And then she becomes aware that the town has other problems. A Sheriff who rules the roost, secrets that not every one is happy with, and an active white supremacist group that vents its spleen.

Vega has not parted on good terms with her former partner Caplan and is reluctant to involve him in her investigation although she feels a need to tell him what she is doing. Inevitably he is drawn in, although he has his own problems at home.

This certainly is a page turner. Vega does not seem to be able to leave things alone when she senses injustice and abuse, and eventually she draws retribution and punishment from people who dislike her interference.

My rating: 4.6

About the Author
LOUISA LUNA is the author of the Alice Vega novels The Janes and Two Girls Down as well as Brave New Girl and Crooked. She was born and raised in San Francisco and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

22 July 2023

Review: ZERO DAYS, Ruth Ware

  • this edition available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BPTHDC36
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster UK (July 6, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 364 pages

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Her husband has been murdered and she’s the only suspect. What should she do?

Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband Gabe are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead.

It soon becomes clear that the police have only one suspect in mind – her.

Jack must go on the run to try and clear her name and to find her husband’s real killer. But who can she trust when everyone she knows could be a suspect? And with the police and the killer after her, can Jack get to the truth before her time runs out?

An adrenaline-fueled thriller from international bestseller and Richard & Judy pick, Ruth Ware, described as ‘one of the best thriller writers around today’ (Independent).

My Take

This is a thriller read of the first order. Jack returns home after what is apparently a routine security job to find her husband Gabe murdered at his desk. At first almost paralysed by grief, she goes off to the police station to answer their questions but then it seems that the police think she has something to do with Gabe's death. So at her second interview Jack decides  to leave the interview and to conduct her own investigation. She contacts her husband's best friend Cole after she discovers her husband has recently made a will.

There's a lot of technical explanation about the software security that Gabe was working on, that the average reader will probably find a bit confusing, but there are elements we will all recognise it from our own experiences. The story is presented as a count down of 8 days after Gabe dies, which helps to heighten the tension. As Jack tries to find out who is behind Gabe's death it seems that the only person Jack can trust is her sister Hel. The police seem to be able to eventually track her down wherever she is  and she is quickly running out of places to go as well as money.

A very good read. Highly recommended..

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

19 July 2023

Review: THE CLOSE, Jane Casey

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local 
  • ISBN: 9780008404987
  • ISBN 10: 0008404984
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • On Sale: 05/07/2023
  • Pages: 416
  • #10 in the Maeve Kerrigan series 
Synopsis (publisher)

At first glance, Jellicoe Close seems to be a perfect suburban street – well-kept houses with pristine lawns, neighbours chatting over garden fences, children playing together.

But there are dark secrets behind the neat front doors, hidden dangers that include a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing.

It’s up to DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent to uncover the truth. Posing as a couple, they move into the Close, blurring the lines between professional and personal as never before.

And while Maeve and Josh try to gather the evidence they need, they have no idea of the danger they face – because someone in Jellicoe Close has murder on their mind.

My Take

Maeve Kerrigan already has a case on her hands, the murder of a local doctor, found dead in his car in a hospital car park, when her boss makes the request that she work undercover, with him, on case of concern to the Lord Mayor's office.

But Maeve is desperately tired, struggling to recover from a domestic violence case in which she was the victim, and working undercover may bring relief. The situation in which Maeve and Josh find themselves, and the challenges it brings, ring very credible. Keeping the neighbourhood under observation while posing themselves as a loving couple, will provide abnormal challenges. 

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy this series. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.9

I have read

Maeve Kerrigan series (Fantastic Fiction)

  0.5. Left For Dead (2013)
   1. The Burning (2010)
   2. The Reckoning (2011)
   3. The Last Girl (2012)
   4. The Stranger you Know (2013)
   5. The Kill (2014)
   6. After the Fire (2015)
   7. Let the Dead Speak (2017)
   7.5. One in Custody (2019)
   8. Cruel Acts (2019)
   8.5. Love Lies Bleeding (2019)
   8.6. Silent Kill (2020)
   9. The Cutting Place (2020)
   10. The Close (2023)

17 July 2023

Review: THE DRY, Jane Harper

  • This edition provided by my local library
  • first published 2016 by Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-7435-805-9
  • 339 pages
  • #1 Aaron Falk series

Synopsis (publisher


It hasn't rained in Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the farming community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are discovered shot to death on their property. Everyone assumes Luke Hadler committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funerals and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and his childhood friend Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth ...

My Take

I first read this novel 7 years ago. Jane Harper was a new voice on the Australian writing scene and her first novel had instant impact.

Aaron Falk, a Federal Police financial investigator from Melbourne, returns home for the funeral of his childhood friend Luke Hadler who is thought to have killed his wife and young son and then himself. Aaron intends to play a flying visit but agrees to look through the family finances to see if anything there prompted Luke's actions. He meets up with the local policeman and together they undertake an unofficial investigation. Feelings in the town are riding high and there is at least one person who does not want them to unearth the truth.

In the novel sections in italics reveal secrets from the past and Aaron remembers things that he has tried hard to forget. These sections also include narration from other characters.

I am re-reading this novel so that I can discuss it with my U3A Crime Reading Group. In this re-reading I think I have appreciated things that I didn't necessarily see before. The town is gradually being killed off by an ongoing drought, hence the title. This is a common scenario in recent Australian novels (just check some that I've recently reviewed) - I've made a list at the end of this post.

I would normally make a list of discussion questions but there are already plenty around for THE DRY. I have included a couple of batches below.

If you are new to recent Australian crime fiction you really couldn't do better than start here. Jane Harper is a writer to watch.

In our reading group we will be discussing some of those questions and then watching the film starring Eric Bana as Aaron Falk.

My rating: 5.0

My previous review

I have also read

Macmillan Reading Group questions

Another set of questions

  • The novel has a strong sense of place, despite being set in a fictional town. What elements does Harper include to accomplish this? How do the bush, the rock tree, the river, etc. affect the story?
  • Harper has said she is interested in communities where people have known each other—for better or for worse—their entire lives. How does this affect personal relationships? What are the positives and negatives of a small community?
  • Falk describes his group of friends as "teenage tight, where you believe your friends are soul mate and the bonds will last forever." (p. 13) And yet he later wonders why he and Luke were still friends (p. 185). Did the early bonds last? Were the bonds broken because of their personalities, because they grew apart, or because of the lies they told?
  • How does the drought affect the town? The Hadlers? The reader?
  • How did his father’s doubts affect Falk? How do loved one’s doubts affect the people they are close to? Do we see this in other relationships in The Dry?
  • Luke was larger than life. What made people think he was capable of murder?
  • The Dry is a book rife with secrets. What secrets do Luke, Jamie, Ellie, and Gretchen tell? How do those secrets affect their relationships? What do they tell us about the nature of truth?
  • Are some secrets better off kept? What might have changed in The Dry if certain secrets had remained secret? 
  • Do you see archetypal heroes and villains in the characters of The Dry? Are there "good" characters and "bad" characters? What were these characters’ motivations? 
  • Jane Harper has worked as a journalist for 13 years. How did her personal background affect her telling of the story? Does her writing style make the details more or less believable?

Australian novels to check

Review: ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, Agatha Christie

  • this edition (large print) supplied by my local library
  • first publishd in 1958, this edition 2011
  • HarperLuxe from Harper Collins Publishers
  • ISBN 978-0-06-287968-4
  • 349 pages

Synopsis (Christie.com)

The Argyle family is far from pleased to discover one of its number has been posthumously pardoned for murder – if Jacko Argyle didn’t kill his mother, who did? 

Dr. Arthur Calgary takes a ferry across the Rubicon River to Sunny Point, the home of the Argyle family. Two years before, the matriarch of the family was murdered and a son, Jack, was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. Throughout the trial Jack had maintained his innocence, claiming he was hitchhiking on the night of the murder and he had been picked up by a middle-aged man in a dark car. Unable to locate this mystery man the police viewed Jack’s as a lie. 

Calgary was the stranger in question, but he arrives too late for Jack – who succumbs to pneumonia after serving just six months of his sentence. Feeling a sense of duty to the Argyles, Calgary is surprised when his revelation has a disturbing effect on the family – it means one of the family is a murderer.

My Take

More about the book (from Christie.com)

Two years after Jacko was convicted of the murder of his adopted mother and has died in jail, his alibi steps forward. Dr Calgary had been out of the country during the trial and only heard news of it upon his return. Certain that Jacko was innocent, Dr Calgary takes it upon himself to investigate the past.

A psychological endeavour on Agatha Christie’s part, this story signifies a shift in style from some of her earlier, light works, and focuses largely on conversation, memory and perception, as each sibling suspects each other of the murder of their somewhat eccentric foster mother. The book was dedicated “To Billy Collins with affection and gratitude”. It was he who had convinced Christie to leave her one-sided deal with the Bodley Head, the publishers of her first six books, and to switch to William Collins Sons & Co in 1926. Now known as HarperCollins, they are Agatha Christie's UK and US publishers to this day.

It was first published in 1958 and it was in 1984 that the story was first adapted for film. It starred Donald Sutherland, Faye Dunaway and Christopher Plummer, and featured an interesting soundtrack that is often thought to conflict with the atmosphere of the film. In 2007, the story featured Miss Marple as part of the ITV television series, played by Geraldine McEwan.

In 2018 new TV adaptation of Ordeal by Innocence was broadcast with an all-star cast, including Bill Nighy, Eleanor Tomlinson and Anna Chancellor.

It is 10 years since I last read this and I am re-reading it for my Agatha Christie reading group.
It was chosen for our discussion because it is a stand alone, so we will be following our discussion with the viewing of the 2018 TV adaptation.

We are told in reviews that the book was one of Agatha Christie's own favourite novels, and featured a interpretation of her holiday home, Greenway House. Also that the reason this was not a "Poirot" was that when she wrote this book Christie was free to do whatever she wanted as she was not in any financial need that period and wanted to write something that would be enjoyable for her.
We spend a lot of time (along with the characters) thinking about who the murderer is, and also about the fact that the innocent are suffering too. We are presented with each of the family in turn for assessment. Did you finally guess who it was?

I haven't actually created a list of questions this time, so it will be interesting to see how the discussion goes.
Some suggestion of themes

  • Guilt vs Innocence
  • Why is no-one pleased by Dr. Calgary's assertion of the alibi?
  • Nurture vs Nature - in particular why didn't Rachel Argyle's great "experiment" work?
  • Did Calgary do the right thing? Or should life have gone on with the case unsolved?
    Remember that Calgary's revelations eventually led to  Mary's husband Philip becoming fixated on solving the murder and so there was in fact another murder and an attempted murder. 

Leo Argyle
Rachel Argyle
Mary Durrant
Philip Durrant
Jacko Argyle
Mickey Argyle
Tina Argyle
Hetser Argyle
Kirsten Lindstrom
Gwenda Vaughan
Arthur Calgary

My rating: 4.5

My original review

My list of Agatha Christie books.

Review: THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition supplied by my local library
  • published by Quercus UK 2021
  • ISBN 978-1-78747-759-9
  • 337 pages
  • #6 in the Brighton Mysteries

Synopsis (publisher)

An old man lies dead and it looks like poison, but his wife isn't the only one who had reason to kill him.

Brighton, 1965

When theatrical impresario Bert Billington is found dead in his retirement home, no one suspects foul play. But when the postmortem reveals that he was poisoned, suspicion falls on his wife, eccentric ex-Music Hall star Verity Malone.

Frustrated by the police response to Bert's death and determined to prove her innocence, Verity calls in private detective duo Emma Holmes and Sam Collins. This is their first real case, but as luck would have it they have a friend on the inside: Max Mephisto is filming a remake of Dracula, starring Seth Billington, Bert's son. But when they question Max, they feel he isn't telling them the whole story.

Emma and Sam must vie with the police to untangle the case and bring the killer to justice. They're sure the answers must lie in Bert's dark past and in the glamorous, occasionally deadly, days of Music Hall. But the closer they get to the truth, the more danger they find themselves in...

My Take

You'll see from my list below that I have really only dabbled in this series, and it is 5 years since I have read one of them. I found this one a perfectly acceptable read rather than being over the moon with it like I am with the Ruth Galloway series. I think the reason is that I much prefer the Ruth Galloway character (and the setting) to Max Mephisto.

I found the creation of the new PI duo, Emma Holmes and Sam Collins an interesting concept. Emma Holmes is a former policewoman and the wife of Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens. Edgar is a good friend of Max Mephisto (from the war years) and so you can see the relationships are a bit tangled. I thought the sharing of information that goes on between the detecting strands is a bit unrealistic and at times Emma forgets she is no longer a policewoman.

For what its worth, the new duo goes on into the next book in the series THE GREAT DECEIVER.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

The Brighton Mysteries (Fantastic Fiction)

   1. The Zig Zag Girl (2014)
   2. Smoke and Mirrors (2015)
   3. The Blood Card (2016)
   4. The Vanishing Box (2017)
   5. Now You See Them (2019)
   6. The Midnight Hour (2021)
   7. The Great Deceiver (2023)

11 July 2023


  • This book made available as a review copy by NetGalley - an e-book, but it will be available later in the year in hard copy.
  • Pub Date 04 Oct 2023
  • HarperCollins Publishers Australia, HarperCollins

Synopsis (NetGalley)

The world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot – legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and A Haunting in Venice – puts his little grey cells to work solving a baffling Christmas mystery.


It’s 19 December 1931. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are called to investigate the murder of a man in the apparent safe haven of a Norfolk hospital ward. Catchpool’s mother, the irrepressible Cynthia, insists that Poirot stays in a crumbling mansion by the coast, so that they can all be together for the festive period while Poirot solves the case. Cynthia’s friend Arnold is soon to be admitted to that same hospital and his wife is convinced he will be the killer’s next victim, though she refuses to explain why.

Poirot has less than a week to solve the crime and prevent more murders, if he is to escape from this nightmare scenario and get home in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, someone else – someone utterly ruthless – also has ideas about what ought to happen to Hercule Poirot . . .

My Take

I think Sophie Hannah has done a good job in re-creating Hercule Poirot, but perhaps Inspector Edward Catchpool is not a good replacement for his old offsider Arthur Hastings.

Catchpool's mother requests Poirot's help in solving one murder and preventing another. The possible second victim is due to be admitted to hospital early in the New Year and to spend his remaining days there. If Poirot can work out who committed the original murder then perhaps her friend Arnold will be safe. There seems to be no reason why the second murder should take place, there is no evident link between the first victim and Arnold, and yet Arnold's wife is convinced the hospital is an unsafe place.

Poirot is confident that the solving of the first murder will take him only a couple of days and that he and Catchpool will be free to return to London in plenty of time for Christmas. However he has not taken Catchpool's mother's determination into account, and the lengths that she will go to. Add to that a mix of very strange and at times unpleasant characters, an inept local police investigator, and something in the past reaching out into the present .....

This is the 5th book by Sophie Hannah in this series, and I recommend that if you are still to give it a try, that you make Hercule Poirot's acquaintance. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

My rating: 4.4

The Hercule Poirot series

  1. The Monogram Murders (2014)
  2. Closed Casket (2016)
  3. The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018)
  4. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill (2020)
  5. Hercule Poirot's Silent Night (2023)

I have already read

4.4, CLOSED CASKET - audio
4.4, THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS - audio book #3
4.4, THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL - audio book #4  

10 July 2023

Review: MURDER IN THE MIND, Bruce Beckham

  • this edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • #6 in the DI Skelgill series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0181DH4BK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (2 January 2016)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 240 pages  
Synopsis (Amazon)

SUMMONED TO AN ISOLATED maximum-security hospital, DI Skelgill inadvertently catches the eye of a notorious female serial killer. Does she read his censorious thoughts? Is this the trigger that turns a routine investigation into a rollercoaster of murder, mayhem, escapes and hostage taking? And what of the establishment? Are these crises purely coincidental, or is some conspiracy afoot? Could it be blackmail, corruption, a power struggle ... or something altogether more sinister?

In this, the sixth stand-alone Inspector Skelgill mystery, search teams comb the moorland for clues, while the maverick Cumbrian detective finds his mental sinews stretched to their very limit.

My Take

Another outing with Detective Inspector Daniel Skelgill, and another where you learn just a little more about him.

Skelgill agrees to give a prize at the police charity auction of a weekend's fishing which will involve the hooking of a thirty pound pike. The winner is a psychologist at the maximum security prison where he is investigating the theft of some stores. His investigation has already brought him into contact with a convicted serial killer, a former nurse convicted of poisoning a number of patients. And then he discovers some of the others in responsible positions at the facility are not quite squeaky clean either.  

I'm enjoying the varied plots in these not-quite-cozies.

My rating: 4.5

I've already read

6 July 2023

Review: THE STRANGERS WE KNOW, Pip Drysdale

  • This edition an e-book made available on Libby by my local library
  • Originally published 2019
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (December 2, 2020)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781760854522

Synopsis (publisher)

Imagine seeing your loving husband on a dating app. Now imagine that’s the best thing that happens to you all week …

When Charlie sees a man who is the spitting image of her husband Oliver on a dating app, her heart stops. Her first desperate instinct is to tell herself she must be mistaken – after all, she only caught a glimpse from a distance as her friends laughingly swiped through the men on offer. But no matter how much she tries to push her fears aside, she can’t let it go. Because she took that photo. On their honeymoon.

Suddenly other signs of betrayal start to add up and so Charlie does the only thing she can think of to defend her position – she signs up to the app to catch Oliver in the act.

But Charlie soon discovers that infidelity is the least of her problems. Nothing is as it seems and nobody is who she thinks they are ...

My Take

Another really good read from Pip Drysdale. What I like about Drysdale's books is that just when you think you know where the plot is going, it takes a sharp unexpected twist. 

Charlie's husband Oliver has been careful to not exactly describe for her what his job involves. And he is away a lot. They haven't been married long, but she loves him and trusts him, until she begins to have doubts.

It seems to me that Charlie is too quick to jump to believing the worst about him, and I was quicker to see the truth than she was. But on the other hand, Oliver isn't as squeaky clean, as innocent, as she hopes he is.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read 


3 July 2023


  • this edition published by Isis (large print) in 2023
  • #20 in the Thea Slocombe series
  • ISBN 978-1-39912564-2
  • 306 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A handsome, if slightly shabby, stone house in Upper Oddington is home to Umberto Kingly, as well as his three dogs, and will be Thea Slocombe's latest house-sitting assignment. Without even a local shop, Thea expects the location to be one of her quietest, until the serene atmosphere is shattered with a fatal hit-and-run.

The ensuing high-profile police investigation plunges Thea deep into the victim's complicated family dynamics and the rift that had already torn it apart. She cannot help wondering if the reverberations of scandal have led to a deliberate and murderous assault.

My Take

I have read two in this series before.

Thea Slocombe generally does house sitting, but this time she is taking on looking after 3 dogs as well, for 5 days, while their owner makes a visit to Europe selling antique clocks.

On the first day she looks out of an upstairs window to see a car pulling up outside in the street. A youngish woman gets out and is almost immediately mown down by a speeding car which not only seems to aim for her but also doesn't stop. Stunned by what she has seen, and convinced that the victim knew the driver of the car, Thea contacts a policewoman whom she knows well from earlier cases that she has been involved.

When it turns out that the victim is the niece of the man she is doing the house sitting for, Thea cooperates with the police to try to discover the reason for the murder. And what a dysfunctional family is revealed!

The plot eventually becomes very complex, and to my mind the author was struggling to hold it all together.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


1 July 2023

Review, MURDER BY MAGIC, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00YF6HR9M
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (May 27, 2015)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 301 pages
  • #5 in the Inspector Skelgill Investigates series 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A SPATE OF VICIOUS ATTACKS upon valuable Herdwick sheep, the sudden disappearance of a foreign hiker, and the unexplained drowning of a woodland hermit – a series of apparently unconnected events – draw Detective Inspector Daniel Skelgill to the white-knuckle passes and isolated dales of deepest Lakeland.

Straws in the wind suggest there is sorcery afoot – and a connection to an equally sinister trade in human traffic – Skelgill and his team risk dire consequences as they strive to infiltrate the secretive ring and expose its evil perpetrators.

In the fifth Inspector Skelgill novel, the maverick British detective faces what is his greatest challenge yet, as he wrestles with an error of judgement that could leave his career – and his life – in tatters.

My Take

I'm enjoying the fact that there are so many in this series (apparently 21 now) to dip into. I am reading them in order as I believe that will give me the best view of character and plot development. 

The action in this one takes Skelgill and his Sergeant Jones travelling to the Ukraine to try to work out why people from there appear to be turning up in Cumbria. That seemed to be a little stretch in credibility but it resulted in some interesting plot lines. 

My rating: 4.4

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