Blog Tour: Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place. Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

What I Thought:
For someone who counts themselves as a crime fan, I’ve – surprisingly – not read a scandinavian crime novel until now, and I’m delighted to say that after reading White Out I will definitely be choosing more.

I feel slightly at a disadvantage having started the Dark Iceland series with book five, but this is more my problem than the novel’s, as it does not rely too heavily on what has gone before – just a few quick references – and has its own tense and twisty storyline.

The setting of the book in a rural, barely-populated village at a time of year when people are trying to wind down for the Christmas holidays gives the book a claustrophobic feel and a limited pool of suspects, but Ragnar Jónasson is a master of misdirection, pointing the finger at all those who knew the dead girl and keeping us guessing until the final few pages.

In the age of CSI, it’s refreshing to read a novel where the skills of the personnel are valued more highly than DNA and fingerprints alone, and Ari Thór Arason’s instincts are definitely on show in this book – even if they are at odds with his superiors. Even without reading any other Dark Iceland books, I can sense that this is a theme!

I try and read a good selection of translated works, so I always try and credit the translator in my reviews as a great novel can be made or broken in translation. In this case, it is excellently and seemlessly translated by Quentin Bates.

Shortly after receiving this book for review, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Nightblind and I’m hoping to take a leaf out of Ari Thór Arason’s and make that book a part of my Christmas reading.

Whiteout is published by http://orendabooks.co.uk. For more information on Ragnar Jónasson and his other novels, you can check out his website, or connect with him on Twitter.

This post is part of an EPIC blog tour to support the release of Whiteout – do check out some of the other fantastic blogs involved by searching the #Whiteout hashtag.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Beta Mum – Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts ‘The Beta Mum’, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?

What I Thought:
No-one likes to admit that they might be part of a clique, but invariably mums – and it does always seem to be the mums, the dads just seem to get on with it – on the school run do tend to fall into types and groups. The Beta Mum shines a light onto one of those groups, and a woman desperately trying to fit into it but it (thankfully) is free of a lot of the snark that seems to go with modern parenting. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good snark now and again, but it seems to me that too much of what goes on on the Internet is designed at throwing shade on people who don’t parent the way you do. This book, less so.

The Beta Mum is definitely made by Sophie herself – she’s a mum who has found herself in completely new surroundings and is trying the best she can to fit in, so that her child fits in and, ultimately, isn’t that what we are all trying to do as parents, despite feeling like the spotty teenagers we once were?? She casts a witty and observant eye on the proceedings at her exclusive pre-school and turns them into a blog that she thinks no-one will read. The trouble starts when she is discovered!

The Alpha Mums that inhabit Alphaland are caricatures, but their traits are instantly recognisable. They are also shown to have a more human side towards the end of the novel, which is what sets this apart – it dares to suggest that even the most cartoonish of playground characters is, deep-down, as flawed as the rest of us.

This book is a light and funny read and definitely worth fitting into those five spare minutes every day that mums have!

The Beta Mum was published in August 2017. For more information on the book, and Isabella Davidson, check out the Notting Hill Yummy Mummy Blog, which she also writes.

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.

What I Thought:
Until The Night Manager showed up on TV, with Mr Hiddleston smouldering away in the title role, I think spy thrillers had a bit of a reputation as old hat – how could a gritty, morally ambiguous story of shadowy men and women fighting the Cold War possibly resonate with our delicate, modern sensibilities?

In A Legacy of Spies, John le Carré takes a brilliant approach to the deeds and misdeeds of George Smiley and his colleagues – by not ignoring the generation that came after, but by putting them centre stage, judging the means and methods of an earlier and more precarious time. And while the book focuses on Cold War espionage, it really does have something to say about modern life and our propensity to re-examine deeds from the past and judge them through our modern filter. Certainly no-one would argue that some of the methods employed by the world’s most secretive agencies were ‘right’ by modern standards, but in a time when there was genuine danger of nuclear war, who is to say what was and what was not acceptable?

If you’re looking for answers to that question, then this is not the book for you as Peter Guillam, as a former spy, is not inclined to give you the answer. Instead, he takes us through his official reports, created during Operation Windfall, and then tells us the truth – or at the very least the half-truth. By the end of the book questions still remain, but about those you’ll have to make up your own mind!

I very much enjoyed the style of A Legacy of Spies, the inclusion of correspondence and reports filed while the main story was going on, and although obviously not with every document, Peter’s thoughts about them – sometimes even a one-line interjection by him. In this way, the action builds at a good pace and as Peter witholds information from the people who would happily sell him out to the courts, there is a a sense of being one of the gang – he’s happy to tell the reader some semblance of the truth and we’re one step ahead of the lawyers…

Having read this book, and having watched The Night Manager, I’d be happy to go back to John le Carré’s back catalogue seeing as it does include some of the best novels in the spy thriller genre – perhaps a little moral ambiguity would be good for us?

A Legacy of Spies was published by Viking on 7th September, and you can find out more about John le Carré on his website.

This post is also part of a blog tour to support A Legacy of Spies, so please do check out some of the other fantastic blogs taking part.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book to enable participation in the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Sally Emerson and Broken Bodies

An unusual blog tour today, as it does not concern one book, but a fantastic reissue of all of Sally Emerson’s novels from Quartet books.

So far, I’ve read Fire Child and Heat (review to follow), but am delighted to have more to come!

I’ll hand over to Sally, as she reveals more about her inspiration behind Broken Bodies which completes a gorgeous-looking set of novels…

Quartet’s brilliant reissues of my novels is now complete. They’re a set of six, all with dazzling covers, and include the bestselling ‘Fire Child’, ‘Separation’, ‘Heat’, ‘Second Sight’ and ‘Broken Bodies’ as well as ‘Listeners’, just out, with its disturbing evocation of a woman losing her control after her husband leaves her. But of all my novels, ‘Broken Bodies’ (Quartet £10) is the easiest for me to write about because there are public subjects involved, not least the story of Mary Elgin the wife of Elgin who removed some of the marble statues from the Parthenon in Athens.

I knew I had my novel when I was in the British Museum and standing in front of the magnificent Parthenon or Elgin marbles, my heart beating fast, and I noted a girl in a long green coat beside me and began to imagine a story around her. It was in a way a love story. A man, a historian like her, would come and stand beside her and make some knowledgeable remark but she would know so much more. Their rivalry would begin like this. All my novels begin with a central image.

A few days earlier in the British Library I had discovered a volume of the letters of Mary Elgin, the wife of Lord Elgin Though the girl in the green coat was my present-day heroine there was no doubt that the other heroine was going to be the charming, vivacious and observant Mary who travelled to Constantinople in 1799 with the unpleasant Elgin, taught the harem Scottish reels, introduced the smallpox vaccine to Turkey, but faced ruin and the loss of her beloved children when she fell in love with another man while trying to save her husband from imprisonment. So there are at least two love stories in ‘Broken Bodies’.

Anne Fitzgerald and the American Patrick Browning turn out both to be researching the subject of Mary Elgin, and they fight to lay their hands on her diaries which unlike her letters have never been published. There is a momentous secret in the diaries, a secret which means it isn’t just historians who want to find these diaries.
The story weaves Mary’s diaries, based on her letters, with the tale of the broken loves of Anne and Patrick. The Broken Bodies of the title are both the Elgin or Parthenon marbles and the tortured love affairs from which Anne and Patrick struggle.

Like some but not all of my six reissued novels (‘Fire Child’ throws the reader straight into the diaries of my malevolent but glorious young hero and heroine who seduce and destroy but love living) the story starts almost languidly but gathers pace until the readers realises this is a not just a blend of love story and evocation of Mary’s dramatic life in the 1800s but a thriller which takes the reader through the streets of London and to Athens.

The Times called it ‘a most remarkable and elegant novel’ while Publishing News wrote that it is ‘mysterious, compelling and strangely erotic…a clever mixture of thriller and passionate love story which holds the reader spellbound’. The Sunday Express reviewer observed that the ending was ‘unexpected and perfect’ and wished she could tell everyone what it was. My novels, as the Scotsman has pointed out, suggest ‘the fragility of our civilized state, the menace that lies just below the surface’. I like that sense of menace, and I like passion and I love a proper ending. For me, writing a novel is a rough voyage of discovery with Eldorado at the end. I discover my characters, my themes, as I write. The characters talk to me, as poor Mary Elgin talked to me, and I made her live again I hope, let her tell her side of the story. The ending vindicates her and her role in the removal of the marbles. But I very much hope you’ll not guess what it is until you reach the end. For after all, the end crowns all.

Huge thanks to Sally for sharing her thoughts on Broken Bodies which, along with Sally’s other novels, is available now in the Rediscovered Classics series from Quartet Books.

You can find out more about Sally and her work at her website www.sallyemerson.com, or connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a short blog tour to celebrate the release of Listeners and Broken Bodies so please do visit the blogs listed below for more:

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Blog Tour: The Duke’s Temptation by Raven McAllan

Time for another blog tour today, and I’m thrilled to be hosting an excerpt of Raven McAllan’s new novel, The Duke’s Temptation, which is out on 21st November, published by Totally Bound. I’ll be reviewing the book in due course, but for today, enjoy this little taste of Regency London to whet your appetite:

Whoever said history never repeated itself was wrong. Several days later Evangeline sighed, checked her stiletto was within her reach and dropped her carpetbag on the ground beside her. Trust her to decide to leave by the garden gate and once more be accosted by Lord Crowe.

Stupide. Idiot. When will I learn? However, she hadn’t even known he was there. This event had seemed much too mundane for the likes of him, and on not spying him in her audience she had relaxed.

Foolish.

“My lord, desist this ridiculous behavior,” she said. “I am no one’s mistress nor ever will I be. You are wasting your time and getting very close to losing part of your body.” She stared at him and expected him to back down. She had worsted him last time and who in their right mind would risk such a thing again?

He scowled at her sullenly. “You think not?” His eyes flicked to someone behind her and before she had a chance to react Evangeline found her arms pinned to her sides and her feet several inches off the ground.

Hot, smelly, beery breath surrounded her and she did her best not to gag. Someone’s sweaty hands over her breasts made her cringe. Nevertheless, she stared at Crowe stonily. He was one person she would never give the satisfaction of seeing she was apprehensive.

“Not so cocky now, are you?” he sneered as he moved one hand to stroke her neck, and slid his fingers to probe beneath her pelisse. “No protector around to help out.”

Evangeline did her best to keep her expression blank and held back her revulsion by sheer will. Crowe had more sense than she had given him credit for. She hadn’t thought he would resort to such tactics and she’d walked, unheeding, into his trap. It served her right for not listening to what she’d been told about him. She could hear Gibb’s voice echoing in her head. ‘He’s more than a bully. He is uncouth, uncaring and dangerous. He holds a grudge so beware.’

Crowe seemed to be waiting for an answer, or maybe a plea for…for what? Lenience? She didn’t deign to answer him. Never would she show fear, especially to someone like Denby Crowe. Her mind raced as she feverishly tried to think how she could salvage the situation. Nothing sprang to mind.

“What are you going to do, eh, now you can’t get to that knife up your sleeve?” Crowe asked, mocking her. “No help at hand. What next?”

A frisson of fear slithered down her spine, and she silently berated herself once more. Why, oh why hadn’t she expected this and been vigilant? Apart from Gibb, Eloise had told her that Denby Crowe had a reputation for underhandedness and was not one to take a slight or put-down lightly. She also had warned Evangeline to be on her guard, but Evangeline hadn’t thought he would attend such a low-key gathering as the one she had just performed at. Tea, buns and not enough sandwiches. Inferior musicians, wittering, twittering debs and a mere handful of gentlemen.

How wrong could she have been? Now it seemed complacency was to be her downfall. Evangeline wriggled and tried to hit something—anything—with her legs. Preferably whoever held her tight in his grip.

“Give up, you’ll ’urt yursul.” The voice was rough and uncultured. She didn’t know enough about British accents to decipher from where it originated. Not that it mattered, the brute was there at that moment and not elsewhere. Knowing his origins wouldn’t help her get out of the predicament. She swore pithily in French. The fact neither man commented showed they had no idea just what she had called them. It was no doubt just as well. Doubting their ancestry in such a way was guaranteed not to win her any favors.

Crowe laughed. “Oh, she doesn’t like it, what a pity. I wager she won’t like anything else either.”

Couchon.” Evangeline spat on his immaculate Hessians. “I will carve your gonads out slowly and painfully.”

His eyes narrowed and his face tightened into a cruel mask. “You won’t get the chance. Joe here will see to that.”
Joe—she presumed it was he who held her—sniggered. “Argh, be good to sort this one out.”

A movement behind Crowe caught Evangeline’s eye. She blinked and was rewarded by a slight shake of a very familiar head. She bit her lip and looked at the ground.

“Ha, so you are worried, eh? As you should be.” Crowe tugged hard on her hair and made her lift her gaze to his. His features contorted and he laughed harshly. “You, my dear, made me a laughing stock.”

“I doubt it,” she said in the most indifferent voice she could manage. “You did that yourself.” In truth, before he’d accosted her in the garden that night, she’d thought he had conducted himself in as proper a manner as could be expected after the way Gibb had showed him up. But that had not been bandied about, so why then was he in this state of ire? She didn’t believe for one moment Gibb had spread the story about how she had worsted him.

“You think so? You are wrong,” he said in a furious voice. “Others heard how you behaved and decided I was not enough of a man to show you what is what. They will not think that anymore.”

“You think not?” the newcomer said as he moved forward without a sound, grabbed hold of Crowe’s arm and pushed it up his back. Crowe squealed and Evangeline watched with interest and yes, she admitted, glee, as Gibb twisted that little bit harder and Crowe moaned.

“I wonder?” Gibb said in a contemplative voice. “How small this will make you in the eyes of the ton? After all, you needed hired help to accomplish anything. You.” He stared toward Evangeline and her captor, but spoke to the man. “Unhand the lady and get going. If I ever see or hear of you again, you’ll swing.” The moon came out from behind a cloud just in time for Evangeline to see the man blanch as he dropped his arms from her and pushed her to one side.

Sadly for him, not fast enough to distance himself before she managed a swift kick to his knees. He went down like a felled tree.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, then you can preorder The Duke’s Temptation now.

To find out more about Raven McAllan and her other books (of which there are many to try), you can visit her website at www.ravenmcallan.com, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of an ongoing blog tour in advance of the release of The Duke’s Temptation, so please do take a look at some of the other great blogs hosting this week.

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Blog Tour: The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.

So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.

Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner – no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide.

What I Thought:
I adore books about books! And The Book of Forgotten Authors could definitely keep your TBR pile busy for the foreseeable future.

While reading the book, I was pleased to note that I had actually heard of a number of the authors, and on further reading, there were some books I’d heard of or film adaptations that I had had no idea of the author of – situation corrected!

I really like the way Christopher Fowler has gone about researching and presenting each author and their works in the book, as it works both as something to read and also as a great reference guide should you wish to go on and read any of the books – if they are still available. I’ve already added several to my Goodreads list and I’ve kept the book to hand for the next time I’m on a book-buying spree!

As non-fiction titles go, it’s remarkably easy to read, being set out in chapters of just the right size about an individual author, with sections about multiple authors of a certain genre. There is incredible warmth towards the forgotten authors, and some lovely anecdotes about Christopher Fowler’s own purchase of some of the titles he’s written about.

The Book of Forgotten Authors was published by riverrun on 5th October.

This post is part of a blog tour to support the release of The Book of Forgotten Authors, so please do check out some of the other fantastic blogs involved:

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for the purposes of review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Stories for Homes vol 2 ed. Debi Alper & Sally Swingewood

Published and unpublished writers come together to create an anthology of stories about what ‘home’ means.

55 writers are included in a second charity anthology that brings issues around housing, poverty and crisis to life through the power of storytelling. Volume One of the Stories for Homes Project raised over £3K for housing charity Shelter and raised awareness of housing issues. Volume Two of the anthology includes stories, poems and flash fiction and again all proceeds will be donated to the charity.

What I Thought:
I think we all continue to be shocked by Grenfell Tower and the response to it – some reports from just last month indicate that 80% of survivors are still yet to be rehoused – so this second volume of Stories for Homes goes some way to raise both money and awareness of the ongoing agony that the survivors are going through.

Volume 1 of this project raised £3K for Shelter and helped to bring awareness to the very many and complex issues that surround housing and homelessness in this country – they say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the fact that these issues continue to make headlines and show no signs of improving is a real indictment of our government and our country.

The 55 stories in this anthology, whether they are from previously published or unpublished writers, deal with ‘Home’ as both a physical entity and as a concept – is Home your four walls, or is it your family, your friends or where you feel safest?

It also deals with complex issues, such as a return from prison (Coming Home), the end of the American Dream from a migrant perspective (Giving Thanks), feeling safe in your own home (Up the Garden Path) and even uses fairytale to look at the value we put on our own homes (A House of My Own)

Varied in length and style though they may be, there will be at least one story in this collection that resonates with everyone – at the very least it shines a light on the ongoing struggles faced by too many of our most vulnerable citizens every day.

With the proceeds of this volume again going to Shelter, it’s well worth buying – especially as we move into the coldest months of the year – if only to allow Shelter to help more people in crisis. You can buy the ebook from Amazon, or directly from The Stories for Homes website, where you can also pick up the first volume and additional content.

If you feel you would like to make a donation to Shelter, outside of the purchase of this book, then you can do so here. There is lots of information about where your money will go, plus the option for a one-off, or regular donation.

The Blog tour has been ongoing, since the anthology’s release on 28th September, so please do check out some of the other fantastic blog taking part:

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book to enable accurate participation in the book tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Doctor’s Wife is Dead by Andrew Tierney

A mysterious death in respectable society: a brilliant historical true crime story

In 1849, a woman called Ellen Langley died in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. She was the wife of a prosperous local doctor. So why was she buried in a pauper’s coffin? Why had she been confined to the grim attic of the house she shared with her husband, and then exiled to a rented dwelling-room in an impoverished part of the famine-ravaged town? And why was her husband charged with murder?

Following every twist and turn of the inquest into Ellen Langley’s death and the trial of her husband, The Doctor’s Wife is Dead tells the story of an unhappy marriage, of a man’s confidence that he could get away with abusing his wife, and of the brave efforts of a number of ordinary citizens to hold him to account. Andrew Tierney has produced a tour de force of narrative nonfiction that shines a light on the double standards of Victorian law and morality and illuminates the weave of money, sex, ambition and respectability that defined the possibilities and limitations of married life. It is a gripping portrait of a marriage, a society and a shocking legal drama.

What I Thought:
What started out as a genealogical curiosity is presented by Andrew Tierney in a well-reasearched, and rage-inducing account of the appalling treatment of a woman at the hands of her husband.

In The Doctor’s Wife is Dead, Ellen Langley’s life and death are presented in all their gory details, with supporting evidence presented in a really accessible way. This real-life account of a woman considered and old maid by the social mores of the time, but certainly not by today’s standards, finally married to a younger doctor with prospects could have been a happy and unremarkable tale but, as is presented in the book, Ellen’s husband was more interested in her connections, leading to a miserable life of physical and mental abuse, ending with a burial in a pauper’s grave.

It should be pointed out that there are some educated suppositions made, based on the evidence that Andrew Tierney has unearthed but it seems that the story is indicative of the treatment of any number of women during this time – those declared insane or hysterical when they were nothing of the sort, but who simply had no rights and no hope should the men in their lives turn against them.

As dry as non-fiction can sometimes be, this account is as gripping as any fiction title and is paced beautifully, through to the conclusion of the case, and an epilogue in which we find out how Dr Langley ended his life. Definitely recommended for lovers of true crime.

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Death in the Stars by Frances Brody

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame…

What I Thought:
I’m celebrating the imminent release of Frances Brody’s latest Kate Shackleton mystery, Death in the Stars, by having a cup of proper Yorkshire tea – fitting, as that county is the basis for Kate Shackleton’s superbly twisty and mysterious adventures.

Having not read a Kate Shackleton book until last year, reading Death at the Seaside, I’d now be quite happy to read all of them (which I’m attempting to do!) and this latest instalment is a brilliant addition to the collection.

As ever, Kate Shackleton is the chic woman-about-town and go-to lady detective for the upper classes, but she won’t be easily deceived and put off – fairly early on, Kate sniffs out that Selina is not telling her the full story. Her usual supporting cast of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden are also on the case, using their experience and detecting talents to help Mrs Shackleton bring the killer to justice.

The real-life eclipse and its surrounding events allows Frances Brody to put her research skills to work, and she ties the factual events beautifully into the fictional account of Billy Moffatt’s disappearance and death, with it never feeling forced. This is the feeling throughout the novel – there is plenty of period detail, background information about what’s going on at that particular time and also the deeply-felt repercussions of the First World War but it is introduced so delicately that it just fits into the fictional elements.

The method of murder in this novel is very clever and there continue to be surprises right up to the final few pages. On reflection, of the Kate Shackleton books I’ve read, this one so far is the best – I look forward to seeing how the others compare as next on my list is Dying in the Wool, the first Kate Shackleton adventure.

Death in the Stars is published by Piatkus on 5th October. To find out more about the series, or Frances Brody, check out her website.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Death in the Stars, so please do take a look at some of the other fantastic blogs taking part – also, keep an eye on my Twitter account, as I’ll have a giveaway of Death in the Stars running soon!

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Orphan Sisters by Lola Jaye

Lana and May are a very long way from home.

Their Nigerian parents have emigrated to England in search of a better life for their family. Nineteen Fifties London is a great adventure to the girls but not always welcoming. There are signs in windows of lodging houses warning: ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’.

When tragedy strikes and the girls lose their father, their mother is unable to cope. When she fails to recover from the surprise birth of another child all three girls are sent to an orphanage. Lana is determined to keep her sisters together but when baby Tina gets adopted, she must admit their family is about to be torn apart – perhaps for ever…

What I Thought:
There seems to be a very healthy market for what I would term ‘nostalgia’ titles – set in the 1940s and 1950s, these titles have a nice girl in a difficult situation, who then comes through in the end. What they tend to all have in common, is that the little girl is invariably white and, reading Orphan Sisters, was the first instance in which I’ve read about children of colour during this time period.

Anyone who knows a little about the UK during the 1950s will be familiar with the blatant racism of this time – the landlords who would accept ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ and the Rivers of Blood speech – and it’s unusual and interesting to read a fiction title about the experience of those who came to the UK for better opportunities at that time.

The book begins in Nigeria, with such a sense of hope – Lana and May’s father is working in the UK and the family waits for word that they may finally make the long journey themselves. When they do, they discover a whole new, fascinating world, but one where the people are not quite so friendly and the weather not quite so warm.

Lola Jaye writes the girls very well, capturing their childish delight at their new experiences, and their new home provided by a father that is working his way up. But suddenly it all comes to an end – Daddy suddenly, and dramatically passes away.

Lana and May’s lives are then thrown into turmoil, with a mother who cannot cope with two daughters, a surprise pregnancy and an abject loss of hope. They eventually end up placed in an orphanage. Lana fights to keep the family together, but will everything be torn from her as her parents were?

Orphan Sisters is, despite some harrowing sections, a lovely book to read. While terrible things happen to the girls, there is inspiration to be drawn from their determined nature. If you read the book and take it at face value, then it is what it is, but if you bring to mind the time period in which it is set, imagining just how hard it must’ve been for the girls with the prevailing attitude towards black people being so awful, it is a small insight into how life would have been for the hundreds of people who came to the UK from Nigeria, the West Indies, India and many other places in hopes of a better life.

Like most of these nostalgia titles, there is an uplifting ending to this book, but it is handled well and not schmaltzy. The whole book, in fact is very well written and although it deals with difficult subject matter, it is never overtly depressing as the main characters have such hope for their future.

Orphan Sisters is definitely recommended. The ebook is available now, but the paperback is due for release on 21st September.

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All view are, as ever, my own.

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