My Friday Post: The House on Cold Hill by Peter James

Book Beginnings Button

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, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring one of my current library loans, The House on Cold Hill by Peter James. I borrowed this book because I like Peter James’s books. This is a standalone novel, not one of his Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series.

The House on Cold Hill

‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Johnny, a smouldering cigar in his mouth, looked in the rear-view mirror. He loved his kids, but Felix, who had just turned eight, could be an irritating little sod sometimes. ‘That’s the third time you’ve asked in ten minutes,’ he said, loudly, above the sound of the Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’ blaring from the radio.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘It’s your birthday soon,’ Caro said, during a commerical break in the TV programme. ‘You’re going to be an old man!’

‘Yep, tell me about it,’ Ollie replied.

‘Forty! Still you’re wearing pretty well.’

~~~

Blurb:

Moving from the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for born townies, Ollie Harcourt, his wife, Caro, and their twelve-year-old daughter, Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated, Georgian mansion – they are filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, Ollie has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and with its acres of land, he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, a base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being removed from all her friends.

But within days of moving in, it soon becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents in the house. At first it is only a friend of Jade, talking to her on Facetime, who sees a spectral woman standing behind her. Then there are more sightings of her, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. Two weeks after moving in, Caro, out in the garden, is startled to see faces staring out of an upstairs window of the house.

The window of a room which holds the secret to the house’s dark history . . . a room which does not appear to exist . . .

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Absolute Proof by Peter James

3.5*

Pan Macmillan|4 October 2018|570 pages|Review copy

Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer the phone call that would change his life – and possibly the world – for ever. ‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.’

What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?

This question and its answer lie at the heart of Absolute Proof, an international thriller from bestselling author Peter James.

The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life’s work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world’s major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence . . .

Absolute Proof is a long book and at times I struggled to carry on reading as, although for the most part it is fast-paced, it is slow going in parts. And it certainly tested my ability to suspend my disbelief several times. I’ve only read two of Peter James’ books previously, both crime fiction set in Brighton featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Absolute Proof is a standalone thriller and is very different from the Roy Grace books. It has similarities to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, as the search is on for proof of  God’s existence.

Ross Hunter is married to Imogen and they are expecting their first child – however he has serious doubts about his marriage and suspects Imogen of cheating on him. The story of their marriage unfolds, underlying the main plotline.  Dr Harry  F Cook, a former RAF officer and  retired history of art professor, contacts Ross and drip feeds him information that Cook claims proves that God exists.

The grid references Cook gives Hunter takes him to various places including Glastonbury, where he visits the Chalice Well in search of the Holy Grail, and Egypt in search of Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. All the time he is in danger of death as he is pursued by those who do not want Cook’s claims to be made public. It’s a dramatic and hair-raising story that made me want to know what happened next at the same time as it made me question its credibility. It is certainly thought provoking and entertaining.

One of the things that intrigued me was that in his Acknowledgements Peter James explains that the book began with a phone call he received in 1989 from someone who did indeed claim that he had been given absolute proof of God’s existence and that he had been given Peter James’s name as an author who would help him to get taken seriously. This started James’s ‘journey of exploration into what might be considered absolute proof – and just what the consequences might be.’ During the intervening years he has talked to many people from different faiths and had discussions with scientists, academics, theologians and clerics. He has certainly done his research and gives a long list of the people who have helped him, plus a list of his sources of reference, giving me yet more details of books I’d like to read.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for provided a review copy of this book.

Library Loot

The mobile library came yesterday and I borrowed three books:

Liby-bks-Feb-2017

You Are Dead by Peter James – this is the 11th in his Roy Grace series. I’ve only read two (the first and the third) of the earlier books. I know I should probably read them in order but sometimes you have to take what’s available at the time and fill in the gaps later. I’m hoping it reads well as a stand-alone.

It’s set in Brighton and it’s about current cases of missing women and the discovery of the remains of women who went missing in the past. Are these events connected and if so how?

Duchess of Death: the Unauthorised Biography of Agatha Christie by Richard Hack, drawing on over 5000 unpublished letter, documents and notes. I’m not at all sure I shall actually read this book, but I thought I’d borrow it just to have more time to look at it. I’ve read Agatha Christie’s Autobiography, which is an excellent book that took her 15 years to write, and a few other biographies about her, some better than others.

I don’t like the title, Duchess of Death, which I suppose Hack chose for its alliteration. The jacket cover blurb says it is ‘as full of romance, travel, wealth and scandal as any whodunit she crafted.’ I have a feeling this will not be one of the better biographies.

And finally I borrowed Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, one of the Austen Project series (in which six bestselling contemporary authors write their own take on Jane Austen’s novels). I’ve been wondering whether to read any of these books for some time now and also meaning to read Val McDermid’s books, so when I saw this sitting on the mobile library’s shelves I thought why not at least have a proper look at it.

I first read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey many years ago (it could have been in the second year at Grammar School) and as far as I remember, despite loving Pride and Prejudice, I wasn’t too taken with it. I’ve been thinking of reading it again for some while now. I didn’t watch the TV adaptation a few years back, so I’m coming to both books with fresh eyes.

This is my copy with its awful cover:

Northhanger-Austen

Not Dead Enough by Peter James

I read the first Detective Superintendent Roy Grace book, Dead Simple nearly two years ago now and have been meaning to read more of the books, so because I’m now concentrating on reading books I’ve owned before 1 January 2014 I thought it was time to read Not Dead Enough by Peter James. It’s the third Roy Grace book and whilst I don’t think it’s as good as Dead Simple I still enjoyed it – mainly because of the characterisation and the detail James goes into. It’s a long book and I see on Amazon that it’s been criticised for being too long and too detailed, but I liked that. For me it gave added interest and verisimilitude. Some people also criticised it because it has short chapters – to my mind that’s much better than having long chapters!

It’s set in Brighton and begins with the murder of Katie Bishop. The immediate suspect is her husband Brian Bishop, but it appears that he couldn’t be the murderer unless he could have been in two places at once. Then Sophie Harrington is killed. She had been having an affair with Brian thus intensifying the police investigation into his movements and background.

James takes his time setting out the details and the characters, so it’s quite slow to start off, but then the pace picks up, which makes this a quick read as I really wanted to know what happens next. It isn’t difficult to work out who the murderer is, but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment  – and there is just a little twist at the end that I hadn’t foreseen earlier on.

Roy Grace comes across as a real character, concerned about his work and his colleagues, even if he doesn’t get on too well with his boss, ACC Alison Vosper. Grace’s wife, Sandy, had disappeared nine years earlier and he is still wondering what happened to her even though he is now involved with Cleo Morey, the Chief Mortician and he takes a quick trip over to Munich when his friends tell him they had seen her there. This takes his attention away from the murders and he has to defend his visit to Vosper.

This is very much a police procedural, detailing how the detectives go about their work, including Grace’s ideas about whether eye movements indicate whether a person is telling the truth, which I’ve read about before, and what happens when a person is charged and arrested, which I know very little about (only from books and TV – and want to keep it that way)!

Crime Fiction Alphabet: J is for …

ithe letter Js for … Peter James

Peter James is an author I’ve been aware of for a while and although I’ve owned a couple of his books until recently I hadn’t read them. Now I’ve read Dead Simple I realise I should have read it years ago – I didn’t know what I was missing. It’s really good.

Peter James is currently the Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. As well as being a crime fiction writer he is also a film producer and script writer. He has sold more than a million books internationally and has been translated into 35 languages. His most recent books, set in Brighton, feature Detective Superintendent Roy Grace – there are 8 in the series, the first being Dead Simple.There is full list of all his books with summaries on his website.

Dead Simple is anything but simple. There are plenty of twists and turns in this story of a race against time to find Michael Harrison who disappeared after what was supposed to be a harmless stag night prank three days before his wedding. Michael’s fiancée, Ashley and his mother are frantic with worry, but surely Mark, his best man and business partner must have some idea where he is, even though he missed the stag night himself.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is in charge of the investigation, which has added impetus for him as his wife disappeared eight years earlier and has never been found. When all the usual sources had failed to find her he had turned to psychics and mediums for help and he eventually resorts to consulting them again in this case.

It’s told from a number of viewpoints which gives a rounded view of the events and yet the full picture is never quite in view. There are hints that led me to suspect the outcome, but not completely. Some of it does seem rather far-fetched but it’s totally gripping, building to a tremendous climax.

I shall certainly be seeking out the other 7 books in his Grace series, and his earlier books too, which according to the author information in Dead Simple, all reflect his ‘deep interest in medicine, science and the paranormal.’

For more blog posts featuring the letter J in The Crime Fiction Alphabet go to Mysteries in Paradise.

Crime Fiction Alphabet – Letter N

This week we’ve reached the letter N in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet. My choice is a medley of ‘N‘s.

  • I had thought I would review Peter James’s Not Dead Enough, and I started it a while back but put it down to read other books. Not because I didn’t like it, but it’s a very long book – 610 pages of very small font, which is difficult for me to read, especially late at night when my eyes get tired quickly. From the back cover:

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed at the time. At least that’s the way it looks to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who is called to investigate the kinky slaying of beautiful young Brighton socialite, Katie Bishop.

  • Another choice for the letter N that I considered is A Necessary End, an Inspector Banks mystery by Peter Robinson but I haven’t finished that book either. From the back cover:

In the usually peaceful town of Eastvale, a simmering tension has now reached breaking point. An anti-nuclear demonstration has ended in violence, leaving one policeman stabbed to death. Fired by professional outrage, Superintendent ‘Dirty Dick’ Burgess descends with vengeful fury on the inhabitants of ‘Maggie’s Farm’, an isolated house high on the daleside.

  • My third choice is Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre. I started reading this after enjoying Quite Ugly One Morning. The bookmark shows I’m up to page 30. I think I didn’t finish this book because I was expecting it to be set in Scotland like Quite Ugly One Morning and was put off by it being in Los Angeles – silly I know!

 

  • Then there is Agatha Christie’s Nemesis, which is the last Miss Marple mystery. I only bought it recently and I’m itching to read it soon. Mr Rafiel, an old acquaintance (see A Caribbean Mystery), has died and left Miss Marple instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death.

 

  • And finally the book I’m currently reading is Janet Neel’s Ticket to Ride, which so far is making very interesting reading. But I don’t want to write much about it before I’ve finished it. Ticket to Ride features Jules Carlisle a newly qualified solicitor. She takes on the case of Mirko Dragunoviç, an illegal immigrant who claims that one of the eight dead bodies, found on the beach west of King’s Lynn, is that of his brother.

Janet Neel is the nom de plume of Baroness Cohen of Pimlico who sits as a Labour peer in the House of Lords. She started out as a solicitor, then went to the Board of Trade and then to Charterhouse Bank. She has written several crime fiction novels. The first, Death’s Bright Angel won the John Creasey Prize and both Death of a Partner and Death Among the Dons were shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger.