The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths (Dr Ruth Galloway Mystery 14) #TuesdayBookBlog

Ruth is in London clearing out her mother’s belongings when she makes a surprising discovery: a photograph of her Norfolk cottage taken before Ruth lived there. Her mother always hated the cottage, so why does she have a picture of the place? The only clue is written on the back of the photo: Dawn, 1963.

Ruth returns to Norfolk determined to solve the mystery, but then Covid rears its ugly head. Ruth and her daughter are locked down in their cottage, attempting to continue with work and home-schooling. Happily, the house next door is rented by a nice woman called Zoe, who they become friendly with while standing on their doorsteps clapping for carers.

Nelson, meanwhile, is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links the deaths to an archaeological discovery, he breaks curfew to visit Ruth.

My Review

It was great to return to Norfolk to see Ruth again and the added dimension of Lockdown Britain added realism and different problems and possibilities.  We find Cathbad as an online yoga instructor, which is great, but then things start to go wrong. Meanwhile DI Nelson’s investigation into a series of suicides will probably lead nowhere but why did all the women attend the same slimming club?

Michele’s absence, staying with her mother is prolonged by the pandemic, and Nelson seeks help from Ruth over an archaeological discovery. A seemingly uneventful investigation soon becomes intensely dangerous, and we become suspicious of Ruth’s new neighbour. I particularly enjoy reading the very different viewpoints of Ruth and Nelson as the plot unfolds.

This is a book for those who have already read the previous Dr Galloway mysteries, but it doesn’t disappoint. Our favourite characters continue to develop, the investigations are intriguing and the last chapter promises more personal events in their future.

The Locked Room on Amazon UK

My Review of The Crossing Places the first Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths

Between the Stops: The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus by Sandi Toksvig

“Between the Stops is a sort of a memoir, my sort. It’s about a bus trip really, because it’s my view from the Number 12 bus.”

From a brief history of lady gangsters at Elephant and Castle to anecdotes about boarding school, this is the long-awaited memoir from one of Britain’s best-loved characters. Presenter of QI, former host of The Great British Bake Off, writer, broadcaster, activist and comic on stage, screen and radio for nearly forty years: this is an autobiography with a difference – as only Sandi Toksvig can tell it.

A funny and moving trip through memories, musings and the many delights on the number 12 route, Between the Stops is also an inspiration to us all to get off our phones, look up and talk to each other because as Sandi says: ‘some of the greatest trips lie on our own doorstep’.

My Review

I chose this unusual biography because I enjoy listening to the wit and intelligence of Sandi Toksvig on radio and TV. Reading more like a conversation about many interesting features of Sandi’s bus journey from her home in Dulwich to Broadcasting House, I especially enjoyed the historical anecdotes about south London, but these flow naturally into tales from her life. She does not stick to chronological order so sometimes she describes an amusing episode of QI and soon afterwards she recounts her awful experiences in a Surrey boarding school. As she was born in 1958, her childhood experiences were very different from that of a modern child, but she lived with a unique travelling family, her father a Danish broadcaster taking his family around the United States where she was sometimes left in a motel bedroom with her young brother and at other times, she was playing hooky from school.

Sandi has worked with and made friends of many famous actors and raconteurs, including Sheila Hancock, Alan Coren and Kathy Lette. She has also encountered some celebrities who were later disgraced. Her lifestyle as a lesbian, in a permanent relationship with children, has resulted in abuse and grief particularly from the gutter press. In 2015 she was joint founder of the Women’s Equality Party but regrets that without money or power they have not been able to make changes. But chiefly this account is full of humour, extraordinary episodes and fascinating historical facts.

Between the Stops on Amazon UK

My review of Will She Do? the autobiography of actress Eileen Atkins

The Sapphire Child By Janet MacLeod Trotter #BookReview #FridayReads

In the dying days of the Raj, can paths divided by time and circumstance ever find each other again?

In 1930s Northern India, childhood friends Stella and Andrew have grown up together in the orbit of the majestic Raj Hotel. Spirited Stella has always had a soft spot for boisterous Andrew, though she dreams of meeting a soulmate from outside the close-knit community. But life is turned on its head when one scandal shatters their friendship and another sees her abandoned by the man she thought she loved.

As the Second World War looms, Andrew joins the army to fight for freedom. Meanwhile in India, Stella, reeling from her terrible betrayal, also throws herself into the war effort, volunteering for the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, resigned to living a lonelier life than the one she dreamed of as a child.

When Andrew returns to the East on the eve of battle with Japan, the two former friends are reunited, though bitter experience has changed them. Can they rekindle what they once had or will war demand of their friendship the ultimate sacrifice?

My Review

This long, detailed story takes us from pre-war India and Scotland to the tragic events during World War Two in India and Burma. The heroine, Stella Dubois, assists both her parents at the Raj Hotel, Rawlpindi and Mr and Mrs Lomax at the Raj-in-the-hills Hotel. She has always been a good friend of Andrew Lomax, even though the young teenager is 6 years younger than her, so when it is decided that he should visit his mother, Lydia, former wife of Tom Lomax, Stella accompanies him on the journey to Scotland. Expecting to be welcomed by Lydia, whom she remembers from her childhood, she is surprised to be treated like a servant. Lydia soon turns Andrew against his father and stepmother, so Stella returns to India leaving Andrew in Scotland.

Although this is Book 2 of a series, I read it as a standalone and it works perfectly. Past events happened when Andrew, was a child, so we learn about book one as he struggles to come to terms with secrets kept from him.

Stella misses Andrew and regrets the loss of a possible romantic experience with a young man she met on board ship but she gratefully returns to her busy life at the hotels. We gradually learn of the momentous events at the beginning of the second world war and as Andrew joined up at the first opportunity, he was one of the men recued at Dunkirk. Inadvertently Andrew gives Stella information which enables her to reconnect with the Irishman she had met on board ship. This time they are able to develop their relationship and Stella believes she has finally found her life partner. But wartime events separate them and the Lomax family worry about the safety of Andrew.

There is sadness and tragedy as in all wartime stories but family bonds, friendship and love reunite Stella with those she holds dear in a very satisfying denouement.

The Sapphire Child on Amazon UK

Janet MacLeod Trotter

The Midnight Hour (The Brighton Mysteries #6) by Ellie Griffiths #BookReview

My Review

In this sixth Brighton mystery by Elly Griffiths, the plot centres on the role of women. Bert Billington, the murder victim, had shown little respect for the women in his life so there are several possible female suspects. Having little faith in the police force, his flamboyant wife, Verity Malone, decides to employ a team of female detectives, Emma and Sam. The only problem is that the talented Emma Holmes is married to the Police Superintendent, Edgar Stephens. Relishing the opportunity to return to crime fighting, she is glad to escape her life as a wife and mother occasionally, and she is lucky that Edgar supports her in this.

Soon the private detectives and the local police are co-operating on the case and Emma takes a special interest in young policewoman, Meg Connolly.  When the two women need to hire a car, they refuse to give up after being told to ask their husband’s permission to do so. Meg is an excellent driver, but as a policewoman in the mid-1960s she is not allowed to drive on duty.

As in the previous books of the series we enter the world of show business and catch up with Max Mephisto, now a successful film actor with a glamorous Hollywood wife. The investigation harks back to the pre-war world of Variety when young women were often taken advantage of by the male stars.

While Emma’s partner, Sam, briefly returns to her former occupation as a journalist, we are reminded of the horrifying case of the Moors Murders, so it is a relief that this Brighton mystery is less upsetting. I enjoyed seeing Emma proving herself as a skilled investigator once more, but I preferred the earlier volumes when she was able to work alongside Edgar.

The Midnight Hour on Amazon UK

My Review of the first 3 books in The Brighton Mysteries

Sharon E. Cathcart

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with a Twist

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