Death on the Danube by Jennifer S Alderson #New Release #RBRT #BookReview

Death Danube

Who knew a New Year’s trip to Budapest could be so deadly? The tour must go on – even with a killer in their midst…

Recent divorcee Lana Hansen needs a break. Her luck has run sour for going on a decade, ever since she got fired from her favourite job as an investigative reporter. When her fresh start in Seattle doesn’t work out as planned, Lana ends up unemployed and penniless on Christmas Eve.

When Dotty offers her a job leading the tour group through Budapest, Hungary, Lana jumps at the chance. It’s the perfect way to ring in the new year and pay her rent!

What starts off as the adventure of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare when Carl, her fellow tour guide, is found floating in the Danube River. Was it murder or accidental death? Suspects abound when Lana discovers almost everyone on the tour had a bone to pick with Carl.

But Dotty insists the tour must go on, so Lana finds herself trapped with nine murder suspects. When another guest turns up dead, Lana has to figure out who the killer is before she too ends up floating in the Danube

My Review

In Death on the Danube, Jennifer S Alderson has turned away from the dangerous adventures of Art Historian Zelda Richardson and turned to cozy mystery with newly divorced Lana Hansen as she takes up a new life as a tour guide with Wanderlust Tours.  I soon adapted to this style of murder mystery as Lana uses her skill with people to take care of a disparate group of wealthy tourists threatened by murder within their midst.  An intelligent former journalist, Lana puts the “Fabulous Five” group of mature women at ease while trying to solve the case.

The book includes vivid descriptions of places of interest in Budapest as settings to the interactions of suspicious characters such as Helen and Tom who own a yacht rental company and Carl, a fellow tour guide, who seems to prefer gambling.  I was kept guessing about the guilt of those guests who seemed most unpleasant or of more likeable old friend, Sally who has been betrayed so badly by the first victim.  I am certainly tempted to visit Budapest myself, now and I am looking forward to following Lana’s investigations next year in A Valentine’s Day Murder in Paris.

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_Twitter-300x300

Jennifer S Alderson

Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. After travelling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands.
In addition to her personal travelogues in Thailand, Nepal and Costa Rica Jennifer has written a 3 volume, thrilling, mystery series about young Art Historian Zelda Richardson.  To read my review of The Lover’s Portrait

Introducing Lana Hansen, tour guide, reluctant amateur sleuth, and star of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series. Join Lana as she leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly.  Death on the Danube released this weekend

Feel-good stories about friendship, travel, and celebrating new experiences. Coming soon: Death by Baguette: A Valentine’s Day Murder in Paris (Books 2) and Death By Windmill: A Mother’s Day Murder in Amsterdam (Book 3) in the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series!

 

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

5 quarters

 Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets memory play strange games. Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Framboise’s nephew – a profiteering Parisian – attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the spilt blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past. Joanne Harris has looked behind the drawn shutters of occupied France to illuminate the pain, delight and loss of a life changed for ever by the uncertainties and betrayals of war.

My Review

I have read several books by Joanne Harris but somehow I missed Five Quarters of the Orange. Set in wartime France and in the 1990s in the small village of Les Laveuses it tells the story of Framboise Dartigen who has returned to her childhood home, unrecognised, as a 65-year-old widow with a new name. In the first person, Framboise describes the farm as it was when she lived there with widowed mother, Mirabelle, and her elder brother and sister, Cassis and Reine-Claude. Young ‘Boise was not a likeable child. There was animosity between her and her mother because they were too alike but Framboise yearned to return and take up the role of excellent cook using her mother’s album of recipes and farm husbandry.

As the book begins to reveal a horrifying wartime event involving the family, we read extracts from the album where among the recipes Mirabelle has written personal journal comments.  This hard woman gave little affectionate to her children but provided them with delicious meals which are described in sumptuous detail. Only the smell of oranges is an anathema to Mirabelle since it is a sign of approaching migraines.

Avoiding their mother, the children live wild in the countryside, striking up a friendship with German soldier, Thomas Leibniz.  Framboise, the youngest, is the most cunning but she is also an innocent.  The children’s amoral actions lead them into a dangerous situation and Mirabelle is too involved in her own misery and bitterness to notice until it is too late.

In the 1990s Framboise seems in control of her life, running a very successful creperie with a regular clientele, but the past threatens her contentment and only old friend Paul can help her.

Joanne Harris writes rich, succulent prose, littered with food similes and names you can taste, which accentuate the contrast between the delights of life and the horrors which wartime brought to the French countryside.

Five Quarters of the Orange on Amazon UK

Books set in Malaysia: my personal list #SundayBlogShare

With the help of Jill from jillsbookcafe.blog I have collected together some of my favourite books about Malaysia.  Having spent several holidays in the Malay Peninsular while I was living in Singapore I have always felt drawn to books set in this lovely country.

First books by local authors:

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

HarmonyThe Harmony Silk Factory is a devastating love story set against the turmoil of mid-twentieth century Malaysia.  Set in Malaya during the 1930s and 40s, with the rumbling of the Second World War in the background and the Japanese about to invade, The Harmony Silk Factory is the story of four people: Johnny, an infamous Chinaman – a salesman, a fraudster, possibly a murderer – whose shop house, The Harmony Silk Factory, he uses as a front for his illegal businesses; Snow Soong, the beautiful daughter of one of the Kinta Valley’s most prominent families, who dies giving birth to one of the novel’s narrators; Kunichika, a Japanese officer who loves Snow too; and an Englishman, Peter Wormwood, who went to Malaysia like many English but never came back, who also loved Snow to the end of his life. A journey the four of them take into the jungle has a devastating effect on all of them, and brilliantly exposes the cultural tensions of the era.

Haunting, highly original, The Harmony Silk Factory is suspenseful to the last page.

Next I have to include two beautiful books by Tan Twan Eng

The Gift of RainGift of RainPenang, 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner. Half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip’s family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei – to whom he owes absolute loyalty – has been harbouring a devastating secret. Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is. With masterful and gorgeous narrative, replete with exotic and captivating images, sounds and aromas – of rain swept beaches, magical mountain temples, pungent spice warehouses, opulent colonial ballrooms and fetid and forbidding rainforests – Tan Twan Eng weaves a haunting and unforgettable story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.

The Garden of Evening MistsGarden of Evening MistIn the highlands of Malaya, a woman sets out to build a memorial to her sister, killed at the hands of the Japanese during the brutal Occupation of their country. Yun Ling’s quest leads her to The Garden of Evening Mists, and to Aritomo, a man of extraordinary skill and reputation, once the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. When she accepts his offer to become his apprentice, she begins a journey into her past, inextricably linked with the secrets of her troubled country’s history.

Many years ago I read several books by Nevil Shute. This was my favourite.  You may have seen the film, but the book is even better.

A Town Like AliceTown Like AliceJean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins.

When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle – an experience that leads to the deaths of many.

Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result.

After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs…

The Separation by Dinah JefferiesSeparationThe SeparationDinah Jefferies’ stunning debut novel, is the heartbreaking tale of a family fractured by lies and one mother’s love reaching across the distance of years and continents.

A country at war with itself,
a family divided and betrayed,
a bond that can never be broken…

Malaya, 1955. Lydia Cartwright returns from visiting a sick friend to an empty house. The servants are gone. The phone is dead. Where is her husband Alec? Her young daughters, Emma and Fleur?

Fearful and desperate, she contacts the British District Officer and learns that Alec has been posted up country. But why didn’t he wait? Why did he leave no message?

Lydia’s search takes her on a hazardous journey through war-torn jungle. Forced to turn to Jack Harding, a man she’d vowed to leave in her past, she sacrifices everything to be reunited with her family.

And while carrying her own secrets, Lydia will soon face a devastating betrayal which may be more than she can bear . . .

My review of The Separation

The Planter’s Wife by Ann BennettPlanter1938: Juliet and her sister Rose arrive in Penang to stay with an aunt, after the death of their father. Juliet quickly falls under the spell of Gavin Crosby, a plantation owner, who despite his wealth, charm and good looks is shunned by the local community. Rushed into marriage, Juliet is unprepared for the devastating secrets she uncovers on Gavin’s plantation, and the bad blood between Gavin and his brother…

But in 1941 the Japanese occupy Malaya and Singapore sweeping away that world and changing Juliet’s life forever.

For decades after the war which robbed her of everyone she loved, Juliet lives as a recluse back on the plantation. But in 1962 the sudden appearance of Mary, a young woman from an orphanage in Indonesia, forces Juliet to embark on a journey into the past, and to face up to the heart-breaking truths she’s buried for so long.

My review of The Planter’s Wife

Han Suyin is always a writer of choice:

And The Rain My DrinkAnd the rainIt is 1948 and the British in Malaya are struggling to put down a Communist uprising and deal with rising nationalism in the colony. Chinese girl Suyin falls in love with a British police officer and is able to see both sides of the war but she sympathizes more with the Communist guerrillas and is critical of the British colonials. A much-loved classic and an important work in the canon of Singapore literature.

And now one I haven’t read but which is on my tbr pile

The Night Tiger by Yangsze ChooNight TigerIn 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren’s mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin’s paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

To read Jill’s personal list of books set in Singapore look here

 

Jigsaw Pieces by Carol Hedges #TuesdayBookBlog #YA

Jigsaw

‘He had been part of my everyday life. I hadn’t liked him much, nobody had liked him much, but he’d been there. Now, I’d never see him again.’

This week I chose a book which many people have read several years ago.  I am an ardent fan of the Victorian detective stories of Carol Hedges, but Jigsaw Pieces is a Young Adult novel set in the early 21st century.  The heroine, Annie Skjaerstad, has a prickly, independent personality.  The thick skin she adopts to protect herself make her unappealing to her peers, but she speaks to readers in the first person, putting us firmly on her side.

Separated from her father and the country she loves, you would expect Annie to go off the rails, but although she has been bullied or ignored by her classmates, she copes with everyday life and exam pressure phlegmatically. Only in English lessons do her spirits rise. Her teacher appreciates her talent and nurtures her interest in poetry written during the First World War.

Suddenly the whole class are shocked when one of the boys commits suicide.  Grant had been unkind to her, but Annie cannot believe he would have made this decision.  Looking forward to a week’s work experience with the police force she is bitterly disappointed when she is sent to a care home instead.  Working through the week of domestic drudgery she meets someone whose early life sparks her interest. In the meantime, she tries to investigate Grant’s suicide.

This easy to read book confronts the challenges which young people are facing at this moment and I read avidly as Annie became endangered by her brave investigation.  Not just for young adults. This is a story for us all.

You can find Jigsaw Pieces on Amazon UK

If you are interested in the Young Adult books by Carol Hedges you might also enjoy The Final Virus

A Convenient Fiction (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 3) by Mimi Matthews #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Convenient Fiction

She Needed A Husband…

It’s been three years since Laura Hayes’s father died, leaving her and her invalid brother to subsist on the income from the family’s failing perfume business. But time is swiftly running out. What she needs is a husband, and fast. A noble gentleman who can rescue them all from penury. When a mysterious stranger arrives in the village, he seems a perfect candidate. But Alex Archer is no hero. In fact, he just might be the opposite.

He Wanted a Fortune…

Alex has no tolerance for sentiment. He’s returned to England for one reason only: to find a wealthy wife. A country-bred heiress in Surrey seems the perfect target. But somewhere between the village railway station and the manor house his mercenary plan begins to unravel. And it’s all the fault of Laura Hayes–a lady as unsuitable as she is enchanting.

From the beaches of Margate to the lavender fields of Provence, a grudging friendship slowly blossoms into something more. But when scandal threatens, can a man who has spent his entire life playing the villain, finally become a hero? Or will the lure of easy riches once again outweigh the demands of his heart?

My Review

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” but for Alex Archer the opposite is true. He has come to Surrey in search of an heiress. Such a man doesn’t sound like a hero, but Alex has hidden depths. He is one of a group of boys from an orphanage who grew up to achieve success but in his case his life has not given him happiness.

Laura had a happy childhood but after her father’s death, she and her sickly brother have a limited income, maintaining respectability while submitting to the patronising charity of local heiress, Henrietta.  Laura is a capable, determined woman.  She does her best to extricate the family’s once successful perfume business from a wily solicitor but her position as a single woman means she has little power.

The tumultuous relationship which develops between Alex and Laura promises no happy ending, since each aim for a different conclusion to their problems but their conversation and interaction is fascinating to read.  We come to realise that such independent thinkers are well matched, but fate seems to be against them.

For those who have read the previous books in this series, there is an interesting meeting with the other parish orphans, but it is not necessary to have read those books first.  The books of Mimi Matthews are unique. Although historical romances they do not follow the usual template.  With a nod to Jane Austen, these frank, determined heroines break down their heroes’ reserve causing the men to admit their true feelings. There is an immediacy about this story which makes easy reading for a modern reader.  Another delightful book by this talented, knowledgeable author.

A Convenient Fiction can be found on Amazon UK

My review of The Matrimonial Advertisement Parish Orphans of Devon Book 1

 

Perfect by Rachel Joyce #BookReview

Only when the clock stops does time come to life

Perfect

Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis.

Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights.

Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything.

And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?

This is a story of details; of the few seconds which can alter life and the routines which keep us sane.  The hot summer of 1972 is vividly recreated at Cranham House, a desirable Georgian home standing alone on the moor.  In a house where, “the air was thick with Vim and Pledge polish,” Diana maintains an immaculate life for Byron & his young sister while her husband works away from home all week.  Each morning after a healthy breakfast they get into the new Jaguar driving Byron to Winston House private school in his smart, neatly pressed uniform, but on the day when two seconds are removed from time, everything changes.

Byron’s friend James is full of clever ideas and he also has a crush on Diana. “Her eyes were bright, her skirt pressed, her hair blow-dried,” and she was naturally kind.  When her world starts to fall apart the 2 boys do their best to help her.

In parallel chapters we meet Jim in the present day, living in a campervan on the edge of a new housing estate and working in a supermarket café.  As a result of his stay in Besley Hill, “where the mad people lived,” he has a stammer and has difficulty interacting with people. But he is finding it difficult to ignore the new cook Eileen, a large lady with titian hair and her laugh has, “something so chaotic about the noise, so joyous and unequivocal.”

And it is chaos which causes the major events in this novel.  It is a fascinating tale of appearances, mistakes and human relationships.  There is mystery as to who Jim is and what has happened to him and what Diana’s background was before she met her husband.  Despite the slow pace I found it compulsive reading.

Perfect on Amazon UK

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.

The White Hornet: Sword and Steampunk (The Viper and the Urchin Book 5) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease

White h

A city of snow and wind.
A logistical nightmare when running a mission…
…or an opportunity to explore new sartorial delights?

Rory has faced many challenges in her time, but none quite so frustrating as mastering the art of walking in a corset and bustle.

She has to pass herself off as a wealthy heiress to infiltrate the House of Bel, a mysterious and highly exclusive club for Airnian high society, and of course her true identity must remain hidden at all costs.

Luckily, Longinus is on hand to advise—that is, when he’s not busy discovering the giddy delights of winter outerwear and investigating the mystery of what happened to his family.

But they soon become aware of a mysterious presence—someone paying disturbingly close attention to their every move.

Who or what is the White Hornet? What is the link to Longinus’s family?

And will Rory and the gang be able to infiltrate the House of Bel before the White Hornet uncovers their true identities?

My Review

Once again, Longinus and Rory are part of a team engaged in espionage on behalf of the Marchioness of Damsport.  Leaving the warmth of their home, Cruikshank, the clever engineer, Adelma, the strong, hard-drinking smuggler and Rafe, a handsome Varanguard, have travelled north with them to Arnia, fearing the Emperor intends to reconquer Damsport.

The fledgling romance between Rafe and Rory is beginning to blossom as they act out their parts of a noble but poor aristocrat and his rich but unsophisticated fiancé.  Soon the need for Rory to act independently and Rafe’s shame in admitting a weakness from his past, cause misunderstanding and distance between them.  Meanwhile Longinus creeps through the frozen city at night in search of information about his lost father and missing mother.

Increasingly Rory’s efforts lead her into greater danger as she puts her trust in the dissipated Airian, Simeon.  While she and Rafe escape the authorities over the rooftops, Adelma, Cruikshank and Longinus attempt a daring diversion which nearly kills them all. But the greatest peril is the cold and ice of the unwelcoming city.

There are two parts to this story. First, during Rory’s visits to the House of Bel, we read fascinating descriptions of room after room of indulgence and desire where she finds no-one will help her, until she learns the importance of gossip. The second and most exciting part describes the dangers and heroism of the five vivid characters, as they fight, flee and help each other against weapons, soldiers and hostile weather.  Another rollicking adventure of this likeable, if eccentric group.

The White Hornet on Amazon Uk

My review of  The Slave City by Celine Jeanjean