WWW Wednesday: 15 August 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading:

I’ve started my Classics Club Spin book, He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr. Set not long after the Second World War end this is a ‘locked room’ type of mystery, in which the body of Howard Brooks is found, stabbed to death, on the top of a tower, but the evidence shows that no one entered or left the tower during the time the murder took place.

And I’m still reading Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore, non fiction about Mary Eleanor Bowes who was the richest heiress in 18th century Britain. She fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney and found herself trapped in an appallingly brutal marriage. Fascinating reading that if it was fiction you’d say you couldn’t believe it.

I’ve recently finished:  

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola, which was published on 26th July 2018. See yesterday’s post for the opening paragraphs and synopsis. It’s beautifully written and as I like folklore and legends, with a mystery interwoven within it, I’ve been enjoying this very much.

I’ll post my review in the next few days.

 

My next book could be:

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, co-written by best-selling crime writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman, to be published on 30 August 2018.

Synopsis

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was hooked right from the start of No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister. It plunges straight into a trial as Martha sits in the courtroom listening to expert witnesses being questioned  and cross-examined about the death of her baby, Layla, just eight weeks old. Her sister Becky is accused of murdering her.  Becky was looking after Layla, a difficult baby who cries and screams endlessly, whilst Martha was away in Kos, organising a school for refugee children and her husband, Scott was away at a work conference. She found Layla dead in her cot and denies killing her. It looked like a cot death – until the postmortem showed otherwise – and the police are convinced it was murder.

This is a tense, tightly plotted book, narrated from several viewpoints, but mainly alternating between Martha and Becky, revealing their thoughts and emotions as they relate what had happened. Despite being very different characters with different lifestyles Martha and Becky love and trust each other – otherwise Martha would never have left Layla with Becky. Martha doesn’t want to believe Becky is guilty but as the trial proceeds, as medical and social worker witnesses as well as neighbours and a school teacher present their accounts it looks increasingly bad for Becky. And yet, and this shows how real this trial and these characters came over to me, I couldn’t believe she had done it either.

Despite being written in the present tense, I was gripped by this book. I didn’t want to stop reading it and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it, about the characters and their relationships, about how they had got themselves into such a terrible situation. Gillian McAllister presents such a complex subject, with great insight into human nature, with characters that are not perfect (as none of us are) – they each have their flaws and make questionable decisions, so it is next to impossible to untangle the truth from supposition.

This  is simply an excellent book, and it is without doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Thank you to Gillian McAllister, the publishers and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

  • Format: Kindle Edition ( also to be published in paperback on 18th October 2018)
  • File Size: 2892 KB
  • Print Length: 421 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1405934603
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 July 2018)-

Six Degrees of Separation from Atonement to Out of Bounds

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Atonement

This month the chain begins with Atonement by Ian McEwan, a book I’ve read and loved! This is a love story and also a mystery. It revolves around the lives of  two sisters, Briony and her older sister, Cecelia. It has vividly-drawn characters and harrowing descriptions of war with reflections on the process of writing and the interpretation of novels.

Kew GardensThe Gardens of the DeadThe Black Friar (Damian Seeker, #2)He Who Whispers (Dr. Gideon Fell, #16)CauldstaneOut of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)

Briony is an admirer of Virginia Woolf and stream-of-consciousness writing and that brings me to the first link in the chain – Virginia Woolf’s short story Kew Gardens with its descriptions of people in the Gardens on a sunny day as they pass by a flowerbed.

My second link is to a book also with the word ‘gardens‘ in the title –  The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick, featuring Father Anselm, a barrister turned monk. Another book, also crime fiction, that features a monk is –

The Black Friar by S G MacLean, set in the 17th century, in which the body of a man dressed as a Dominican friar, is found bricked up in a wall in Blackfriars, once a monastery. He was actually an undercover agent going under the name of ‘Gideon Fell’.

In He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr, one of his series of locked room mysteries/impossible crimes, Dr Gideon Fell is an amateur sleuth.  A body is found lying on the parapet of a tower, once part of a chateau since burnt down.

My next link takes me to another book featuring a tower – Cauldstane by Linda Gillard, a ghost story, set in a Scottish tower house in the Highlands owned by Sholto MacNab, a retired adventurer. It’s also a story of loss and revenge, of good versus evil and the power of love. Meredith, Sholto’s second wife, was killed in a car crash.

There is also a car crash in my final link, another crime fiction novel, Out of Bounds by Val McDermid, the 4th Inspector Karen Pirie novel, in which a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma. A routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before.

 ~~~

My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and a mix of short stories, historical fiction and mostly crime fiction. Beginning with a book set in the 1930s and 40s the chain moves through the centuries from the 17th century to the present day linked by the titles, monks, names of the characters, towers and car crashes.

Next month (1 September, 2018), we’ll begin with Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson.

The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced yesterday. It’s number …

9

which for me is He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by August 31, 2018.

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My copy is a Golden Age Mystery, one of the Green Penguin Crime and Mystery series paperbacks, published in 1953 (first published in 1946). It features Dr Gideon Fell.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At the edge of the woods by the river stands the tower. Once part of a chateau since burnt down, only the tower remains. The inside is but a shell with a stone staircase climbing spirally up the wall to a flat stone roof with a parapet.

One that parapet the body of Howard Brooke lay bleeding. The murderer, when Brooke’s back was turned, must have drawn the sword-cane from it sheath and run him through the body. And this must have occurred between ten minutes to four and five minutes past four, when the two children discovered him dying.

Yet the evidence showed conclusively that during this time not a living soul came near him.

I’m looking forward to reading He Who Whispers as I  haven’t read any of Carr’s books before and I’m really pleased one of the crime fiction novels I listed came up in the Spin.

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

Catching Up: Darkside by Belinda Bauer & The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Once more I’m behind with reviews of some of the books I’ve read in the past few weeks, so here are some brief notes on two of them that fall into the 10 Books of Summer Reading category.

Darkside by [Bauer, Belinda]

5*

Darkside  is Belinda Bauer’s second novel, set in Shipcott on Exmoor a few years after the events in her first novel, Blacklands. Some of the characters in Blacklands also appear in Darkside, but only in minor roles and I think that Darkside can easily be read as a standalone novel. Shipcott is an isolated village and young PC Jonas Holly is the only policeman in the area covering seven villages and a large part of Exmoor. When Margaret Priddy is killed his inexperience means that has to call in the Taunton Homicide team, led by DCI John Marvel.

Jonas and Marvel clash and Jonas, undermined by as number of anonymous notes accusing him of failing to do his job, tries to keep out of Marvel’s way. More murders follow as Jonas, whose wife Lucy has been diagnosed with MS, is struggling to hold everything together. I liked the characterisation, the description of the setting and the twisty, turning plot. Like Blacklands, Darkside is full of a dark, brooding atmosphere and suspense. I had my suspicions about the identity of the murderer but it was only as I was getting near to the end of the book that I began to think I could possibly be right.

The Woman in Cabin 10

3*

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware didn’t satisfy me as much as Darkside. I liked the beginning of the book. The main character, journalist Lo Blacklock takes the opportunity to fill in for her boss on a luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship and hopes it will help her recover from a traumatic break-in at her flat. But woken in the night by a scream from cabin 10 next to hers she believes a woman was thrown over board, only to discover that the ship’s records show that cabin 10 was unoccupied. Lo is exhausted from lack of sleep, overwrought with anxiety and dependent on pills and alcohol to see her through. She fails to convince anyone that she is telling the truth.

So far so good. I thought the setting on a luxury cruise ship worked well for this type of locked room mystery. But then as I read on I felt the book was too drawn out, I wasn’t convinced by the plot and in places I found it hard to believe. I wanted to know how it would end  and it is easy reading, so I kept turning the pages. But the final chapter left me cold – tying up the ends in a facile way.

WWW Wednesday: 25 July 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading: The Woman in Cabin 10  by Ruth Ware, one of my 10 Books of Summer, and I’ve nearly finished it.

The Woman in Cabin 10

Travel journalist Lo Blacklock  is on a luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship when she is woken in the night by screams from cabin 10, her next door cabin. She believes a murder has taken place even though the records show that the cabin was unoccupied. This is a locked house type mystery that begins quite slowly and builds to a climax. But it is testing my scepticism somewhat.

As I’ve nearly finished The Woman in Cabin 10 I’ve just started reading The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola, which will be published on 26th July 2018. I’m only in Chapter 2 but I am totally captivated so far.

The Story Keeper

 

Synopsis

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.

And I’m also reading Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore, non fiction about Mary Eleanor Bowes who was the richest heiress in 18th century Britain. She fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney. When Mary heard her gallant hero was mortally wounded in a duel fought to defend her honour, she felt she could hardly refuse his dying wish to marry her. Fascinating reading that if it was fiction you’d say you couldn’t believe it

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

I’ve recently finished:  No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister. I thought  her first book Everything But the Truth was brilliant and this one has lived up to my expectations – another brilliant book. I’ll write more in a later post.

Synopsis:

The police say she’s guilty.

She insists she’s innocent.

She’s your sister.

You loved her.

You trusted her.

But they say she killed your child.

Who do you believe?

My next book could be: Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott.

Absent In The Spring

A striking novel of truth and soul-searching.

Returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq, Joan Scudamore finds herself unexpectedly alone and stranded in an isolated rest house by flooding of the railway tracks.
Looking back over the years, Joan painfully re-examines her attitudes, relationships and actions and becomes increasingly uneasy about the person who is revealed to her…

Famous for her ingenious crime books and plays, Agatha Christie also wrote about crimes of the heart, six bittersweet and very personal novels, as compelling and memorable as the best of her work.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’ve chosen the last book I bought just a few days ago. It’s Out of Bounds by Val McDermid, the fourth Karen Pirie book and her 30th novel.

Out of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)

 

‘Some night, eh. boys?’ Ross Garvie flung a sweaty arm round the neck of Wee Grantie, his best mate in the world.

‘Some night, right enough,’ Wee Grantie slurred. The two youths swung their hips in rough unison to the deep dark bass beat that shuddered through the club.

Blurb (Amazon):

‘There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them . . .’

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

The Karen Pirie books read well as standalone books, but as they continue Karen’s own story I think they are best read in order – and for once I am reading these books in order! I wasn’t sure after I’d read the third book, Skeleton Road that I’d read any more in the series, but this one does tempt me and I like the combination of a cold case linked to a current case.

I see that the fifth Karen Pirie book, Broken Ground is to be published on 23 August 2018.