This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell

Mo, Cali, Jude.

Three teenagers befriend each other on the white cliffs, thinking they’ll save each other.

Within months, two of them are dead and the third is scarred for life.

Ten years later, documentary-maker Tarek Zayat and his film crew are in town, asking difficult questions, looking for secrets in the silence around that fateful summer.

Because in the shadow of the white cliffs it’s easy for stories, histories and people to get lost. And in a small town, the truth is something that must be carefully unburied – in case it buries you.

I was really expecting to like this book, attracted by the synopsis, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it. It’s one of the books that has been on my NetGalley shelf for too long because I made several attempts to start it. I found it difficult to follow at the beginning and didn’t like the format with extracts from a TV/film Tarek is making. This made the beginning disjointed, switching between different characters. So I was in two minds about reading the book, and put it aside whilst I read other books. But there was enough mystery about what was going on to make me want to keep reading and I started it again recently, this time finishing it.

The narrative moves between 2016 and 2026, which usually doesn’t bother me but in this case I did have difficulty for a while sorting out the time line and what all the characters were doing – and when and how they were connected. This Nowhere Place covers a number of difficult issues – racism, immigrants, suicide, drugs and mental health problems. It also explores family relationships, and friendships. After a slow start the pace didn’t pick up for most of the book. The mystery element wasn’t too puzzling to work out despite all the twists and turns and the fact that most of the characters are lying or withholding information. I was relieved when I reached the ending with yet another twist, which I had suspected for a while.

On the plus side I think it’s well researched and the author recommends a list of books for further reading. The Dover setting is also well described, which has made me interested to find out more about the locations of the Western Heights fortifications, the Grand Shaft with its triple staircase, and the White Cliffs, in particular, the Shakespeare Cliff.

My thanks to Penguin, the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

  • ASIN: ‎ B08C793RMB
  • Publisher ‏: ‎ Penguin (18 March 2021)
  • Print length: 367 pages
  • Review copy
  • My rating : 3*

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for People Who Like Historical Crime Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is Books for People Who Liked Author X but I’m changing it a bit to Books for People Who Like Historical Crime Fiction/thrillers. I haven’t included any of the authors I listed in an earlier TTT post on historical fiction.

  1. Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie, set in 2000 BC Egypt, a novel of anger, jealousy, betrayal and murder in 2000 BC. A young woman, Nofret, is found dead, apparently having fallen from a cliff. More deaths follow.
  2. Night of the Lightbringer by Peter Tremayne – one of the Sister Fidelma mystery series, a medieval murder mystery, set in Ireland in AD 671 on the eve of the pagan feast of Samhain. featuring a Celtic nun who is also an advocate of the ancient Irish law system. (TBR)
  3. The Story Keeper, set on the Isle of Skye in 1857 where Audrey Hart has been employed to collect the folklore and fairy tales of the local community. One by one young girls go missing from their homes and the locals believe they have been taken by the spirits of the unforgiven dead.
  4. An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson, set in the theatrical world of  the 1930s, one of her novels featuring novelist Josephine Tey (Elizabeth Mackintosh 1896-1952).
  5. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, set in a post Second World War England but based on a real case from the 18th century of a girl who went missing and later claimed she had been kidnapped.
  6. Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner, the Eiffel Tower opened in 1889. Eugénie Patinot and her nephew and niece sign the visitors’ book, and then Eugénie collapses and dies, apparently from a bee-sting. Victor Legris, a bookseller is determined to find out what had really happened. 
  7. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, set in the late 19th century, capturing the spirit and tone of Conan Doyle’s original stories while devising a new mystery for modern readers. Horowitz’s plot is cunning, full of twists and turns, with allusions to Conan Doyle’s stories.
  8. Prophecy by S J Parris – one of the Giordano Bruno series of historical thrillers, set in Elizabethan England. Giordano Bruno was a 16th century heretic philosopher and spy. This book begins in the autumn of 1583, when Elizabeth’s throne is in peril, threatened by Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch.
  9. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – set in a 1920s English country house, where Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once as the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. (a TBR)
  10. The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, a murder/mystery book set in Cambridge in 1170 during the reign of Henry II. A child has been murdered and others have disappeared (also found murdered). The Jews are suspected and have been held in the castle for their own safety. 

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Collaborators by Reginald Hill

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

I enjoy Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe crime fiction, but he also wrote thrillers, historical novels, science fiction and, later, a smaller humorous series set in Luton, featuring the black private detective Joe Sixsmith.

This week the book I’m highlighting is The Collaborators by Reginald Hill, a standalone novel of wartime passion, loyalty – and betrayal. It is set in Paris from 1940 to 1945, when Janine Simonian stood accused of passing secret information to the Nazis that led to the arrest and torture of several members of the French Resistance.

My Book Beginning:

March 1945

She dreamt of the children.

They were picnicking on the edge of a corn field. Pauli hiding from his sister, Céci giggling with delight as she crawled through the forest of green stalks. Now too she was out of sight, but her happy laughter and her brother’s encouraging cries drifted back to their mother, dozing in the warm sunshine.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

‘It’s a worrying time for her what with the children being ill and no news of Jean-Paul’, said her husband.

‘If you ask me, she’ll be better off if she never gets any news of him,’ said the woman.

Publisher’s Weekly

First published in England in 1987, this novel departs from Hill’s usual mystery oeuvre ( Ruling Passion ). With thoughtfulness and insight that call to mind le Carre, Hill reconsiders an aspect of the German occupation of France during WW II that many Frenchmen would prefer to forget–the collaboration.

Set primarily in Paris, the novel follows the lives of Jean-Paul and Janine Simonian, he a Jew, she a boulanger’s daughter married against her parents’ wishes. Upon his release from a military hospital after France’s humiliating defeat in 1940, Jean-Paul joins the Resistance. For her part, Janine worries–about her two children and the husband who has become emotionally so dark and distant. Gunther Mai, an otherwise kindly German officer in the Abwehr, befriends Janine and uses her as a source of information on her husband’s activities–a relationship that works well until he falls in love with her.

What Hill portrays so successfully is the conflict between social and personal responsibility. Through a wonderful range of secondary characters, he skillfully characterizes the collaborator in his various guises–from the self-serving black marketeer to the loving mother and wife. Best of all, Hill captures the collapse of morality in occupied France.

What do you think, does it appeal to you? What are you currently reading?

Book Notes: Trying to Catch Up

It’s been too long since I read these books to write detailed reviews, so here are a few notes them.

The Last Rose of Shanghai by Weina Dai Randel 3* – historical fiction set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, this is a World War Two romance, the story of Aiyi Shao, a young heiress and the owner of a glamorous Shanghai nightclub and Ernest Reismann, a penniless Jewish refugee who had fled from Germany. I loved the beginning of this book but the rest of the book was not so good – too much ‘telling’ and I’d have liked less focus on the romance, which to me was barely believable So, 5* for the first 40%, 2* for the rest, so 3* overall. But plenty of other readers love this book.

Shroud of Darkness by E C R Lorac 4* – a Golden Age crime fiction beginning with five passengers on a train from Cornwall to London. When it arrives at Paddington Station in thick fog, one of the passengers is brutally attacked and left for dead. Chief Inspector MacDonald first has to identify the victim, whose pockets had been rifled, and then discover why he was attacked and who did it. Another book I really enjoyed, trying to work out what had happened and failed – I was completely baffled, as much in the dark as the fog-bound passengers.

A Death in Tuscany by Michele Giuttari 4* – crime fiction, set in Florence and the surrounding area. It’s a detailed police procedural, the second in a series of seven detective novels featuring Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara. It’s written with authenticity, as Michele Guittari is a former Florence police chief 1995-2003), where he was responsible for re-opening the ‘Monster of Florence’ case and jailing several key Mafia figures. It’s not a quick read, because of the detail but I was fascinated first of all by the Italian police structure and the division of responsibilities and jurisdiction, which seemed to hamper Ferrara rather than help him. But despite that it is a page turner. He’s investigating the death of a young girl found dead by the edge of a wood on the road above Scandicci. There are drugs involved, the Mafia, and also the disappearance of his best friend, accused of murder for him to investigate. See also this post about the beginning of the book and an extract from page 56.

Top Ten Tuesday: TTT Rewind: Books On My Spring 2019 TBR Updated


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is TTT Rewind (Pick a previous topic that you missed or would like to re-do/update) So, I’m updating my post Books On My Spring 2019 TBR, first posted on 19th March 2019.

I read three of them!

Broken Ground by Val McDermid, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, which I read only this year and have yet to write a review, and The Island by Ragnar Jónasson.

This leaves me with seven left to read:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Capote reconstructs the crime and the investigation into the murders of the four members of the Clutter family on November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas.

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn – a story of life in a mining community in rural South Wales as Huw Morgan is preparing to leave the valley where he had grown up. He tells of life before the First World War.

Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas – the story of a teenage girl, Ruby, who runs away from home to live with her grandmother, Iris in Cairo.

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman – set in 13th century Wales this is the story of Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales, and his rise to power and fame and his love for Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John. 

A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty – crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy after a beautiful law student is shot in Savannah, Georgia.

A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody – set in Yorkshire in 1928, when  amateur detective, Kate Shackleton investigates a crime in Brontë country.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – on the day of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true.

The Classics Club Spin Result

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin is number …


which for me is Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by 30 April 2023.

Synopsis from Amazon

Steinbeck’s first major critical and commercial success, TORTILLA FLAT is also his funniest novel. Danny is a paisano, descended from the original Spanish settlers who arrived in Monterey, California, centuries before. He values friendship above money and possessions, so that when he suddenly inherits two houses, Danny is quick to offer shelter to his fellow gentlemen of the road. Their love of freedom and scorn for material things draw them into daring and often hilarious adventures. Until Danny, tiring of his new responsibilities, suddenly disappears…

I’m pleased about this result as I’ve enjoyed reading other books by John Steinbeck – my favourite is Cannery Row. So I’m expecting this to be good – and hope I won’t be disappointed.

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

The Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor

Harper Collins| 2 March 2023 | 454 pages|e-book |Review copy|5*

London 1671
The damage caused by the Great Fire still overshadows the capital. When a man’s brutally disfigured body is discovered in the ruins of an ancient almshouse, architect Cat Hakesby is ordered to stop restoration work. It is obvious he has been murdered, and Whitehall secretary James Marwood is ordered to investigate.

It’s possible the victim could be one of two local men who have vanished – the first, a feckless French tutor connected to the almshouse’s owner;
the second, a possibly treacherous employee of the Council of Foreign Plantations.

The pressure on Marwood mounts as Charles II’s most influential courtiers, Lord Arlington and the Duke of Buckingham, show an interest in his activities – and Marwood soon begins to suspect the murder trail may lead right to the heart of government.

Meanwhile, a young, impoverished Frenchwoman has caught the eye of the king, a quiet affair that will have monumental consequences…

My thoughts

The Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor is historical crime fiction, the 6th book in his James Marwood and Cat Lovett Restoration series. I’ve read all of the previous books, set in 17th century England, during the reign of Charles II, and thoroughly enjoyed each one So I was delighted to find that this one is just as good, maybe even better. Although it does work as a stand-alone book I do think it’s best to read them in sequence to get the full background of the Restoration period and the relationship between James Marwood and Cat Hakesbury (formerly Lovett).

At the beginning of the book there is a list of the main characters, which I find very useful. It includes where they live and their professions and relationships with each other, including the real historical characters. There is also a Historical Note at the end of the book in which Taylor explains that the origins of the novel had germinated over a number of years following the Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein cases, whilst the catalyst came when he read Dr Linda Porter’s Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II. In one chapter Dr Porter focuses on the career of Louise de Keroualle, who became Charles II’s chief mistress during the second half of his reign. In The Shadows of London the story of Louise’s seduction with its political implications, based on fact, is interwoven with the mystery of the murder of the man found dead, brutally killed, in the grounds of a ruined almshouse that Cat’s workman were restoring.

The murder mystery is complicated first of all because the victim had no face, and nothing by which he could be identified. Both the characters and the settings are well described and the mixture of fact and fiction works well. It is fast paced, full of action and intrigue. The narrative is told from both Cat’s and James’s viewpoints switching from one to the other throughout the book. Their relationship continues to develop as they work together to find the culprit and it reaches a turning point in this book. I hope that there will be a 7th book as I really want to know what happens next …

One of the things that I really enjoyed in this book is the picture it paints of John Evelyn, the writer and diarist, bibliophile and horticulturalist. He was a contemporary of Samuel Pepys. His diary covers the years from 1640 to 1706 when he died. And now I want to find out more about him.

Andrew Taylor is a bestselling crime and historical novelist, and the winner of the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers Association, the Gold Crown of the Historical Writers Association and many other awards. He’s written nearly fifty books,  listed here, three of which have been televised. I’d leave to see the Marwood and Lovett series adapted for television!

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

Classics Club Spin

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin.

Before next Sunday, 19 March, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. On that day the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 30 April, 2023.

Here’s my list:

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Fair Stood the Wind for France by H E Bates
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  4. The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
  5. The Stars Look Down by A J Cronin
  6. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  7. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  9. The Birds and other short stories by Daphne du Maurier
  10. The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  11. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  12. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  13. Daisy Miller by Henry James
  14. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  15. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  16. Friends and Heroes by Olivia Manning
  17. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
  18. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
  19. The Invisible Man by H G Wells
  20. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

I can’t decide which one I’d like to come up in the Spin! But which one/s would you recommend?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring 2023 To-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is The topic this week is Books on My Spring 2023 To-Read List. These are all from my TBR lists. But this does not mean that I will actually read all these books or even some of them this Spring, as I’ve said before, I am a mood read and when the time comes to choose the next book to read it could be a newly published book that takes my fancy or another book from my TBRs.

I would like to read at least one of them though!

  1. The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti – the story of how Everest was identified, and named, leading up to June 1921, when two English climbers, George Mallory and Guy Bullock, became the first westerners to set foot on Mount Everest.
  2. Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine – who killed Lord Inverkillen? Lockdown meets Downton Abbey in this playful, humorous mystery set in 1930s Scotland. 
  3. This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell – a murder mystery set in Dover in 2016, when best friends Cali and Jude meet Mo, a young girl who has recently come to Britain from Syria. 
  4. The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson – historical fiction about the queen, Catherine de Valois who married Henry V in 1420, as told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid. 
  5. The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths, the 14th Dr Ruth Galloway mystery – forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson are on the hunt for a murderer when Covid rears its ugly head. But can they find the killer despite lockdown?
  6. Grimm Up North: A Yorkshire Murder Mystery by David J. Gatward – the first book in the DCI Harry Grimm crime thriller series, set in the Yorkshire Dales. A young woman vanishes without a trace. Can an ex-soldier-turned-copper keep a mystery from becoming a tragedy?
  7. Asking for the Moon by Reginald Hill, a collection of Dalziel and Pascoe short stories. Four stories about their partnership from curtain-up to last act; from the mean streets of Mid-Yorkshire to the mountains of the moon.
  8. The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves, the 10th book in the Vera Stanhope series. Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.
  9. Give Unto Others a Commissario Brunetti Mystery Book 31) by Donna Leon – Brunetti is forced to confront the price of loyalty, to his past and in his work, as a seemingly innocent request leads him into troubling waters.
  10. The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards – Lake District Cold-Case Mysteries Book 8. Hannah Scarlett is investigating the disappearance of a young woman from Bowness more than twenty years ago.

I haven’t listed them in any order of preference. Would you recommend any of them and which one would you read first?

The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter


The gripping No. 1 Sunday Times crime thriller She runs

A woman runs alone in the woods. She convinces herself she’s safe. He watches

But a predator is watching from the shadows. Waiting for the perfect moment to attack.He waits

They thought they caught him. But another victim has just been found.

The hunt has only just begun. And the killer is ready to strike again…

I hadn’t read any of Karin Slaughter’s books, but I thought I’d try this one when I saw it on NetGalley, as I know they are very popular. But for a number of reasons I did not enjoy The Silent Wife at all! First of all I hadn’t realised this was part of a series until I started reading it, but once I did I hoped it would read well as a standalone – but it doesn’t. Then it’s a serial killer story and I’m never keen on that.

But the main reason is that it is very graphic, very dark, extremely disturbing with rapes and murders described in great detail, and just far too gruesome for me. I was really struggling to make myself read it – so I gave up and didn’t finish it!

Thanks to NetGalley for my review copy, anyway.