A Shortcut to Murder by William Savage #bookreview

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This was my third foray into the world of young Doctor Adam Bascom and I feel quite at home now in rural, Georgian Norfolk. Although suitable to read as a stand-alone novel, loyal followers of his earlier adventures will understand the distress he is causing to his erstwhile admirer, Sophia LaSalle, by constantly visiting the charming widow, Lady Alice.

Once again Adam must solve a challenging murder mystery, but on this occasion, he precipitates action in order to flush out the culprit. He is maturing in skill and confidence. If only he could understand women and his own feelings, his life might be less complicated!

We meet some new characters in this book, the highlight being newly qualified lawyer, Charles Scudamore, who could easily be given his own novel. Exuberant but sometimes lacking direction, he and his twin sister, Ruth, are severely reprimanded by their aunt, Lady Alice, even though she is only a few years older than they are.

The victim is thoroughly unpleasant landowner, Sir Jackman Wennard, who may have died by accident after falling from his horse, but Adam’s brother Giles, the local Magistrate, suspects foul play. Adam’s investigations are hindered by lack of cooperation from Sir Jackman’s son, Robert and the case is further complicated by the arrival of Sir Jackman’s first wife, Sarah.

At times, Adam’s deliberations are rather long-winded but it is a complex plot which requires explanation. There is certainly plenty of action and emotional outbursts and the late autumn context allows for portentous description such as, “The air had been full of the smell of decay and the decline of another year.”
Another enjoyable read about a very likeable hero.

You can find A Shortcut to Murder here

William Savage

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William started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had always lectured and written extensively on business topics, including three books, many articles and a successful leadership blog which garnered more than 5000 regular followers. He has no intention of letting his mind stagnate or his creativity wither. This means finding new sources of interest and inspiration.

Throughout his life, William has read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of his other loves is history, especially the local history of the many places where he has lived. It seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk. Four books have appeared so far and he is currently at work on a fifth.

William’s books are set between 1760 and around 1800. This was a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon. The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city. The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman-physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer to the North Norfolk coast. Adam tries to build a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and a knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.

William has spent a good deal of his life travelling in Britain and overseas. After obtaining his degree at Cambridge, he set out on a business career, during which he lived in most parts of the UK, as well as spending eleven years in the USA. He has been a senior executive, an academic and a consultant to many multinational companies. Now he is more than content to write stories and he has a superb blog, devoted to the world of Georgian England, which you can find at http://www.penandpension.com.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

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The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg #FridayBookShare ~ @ShelleyWilson72

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s there were several superb stories for children by husband and wife Janet and Allan Ahlberg.  My respect for Eddie Redmayne increased tremendously recently when he shared his love for Miss Wobble the Waitress and other Happy Families books by the Ahlbergs.  I have two copies of The Jolly Christmas Postman, one for children to pull apart and crumple and another in good condition which is mine!

First Lines

Once upon a Christmas Eve
Just After it had snowed,
The Jolly Postman (him again!)
Came down the jolly road;
And in the bag upon his back
An … interesting load.

Recruit fans by adding the blurb

It’s Christmas Eve and the JOLLY POSTMAN is delivering greetings to various fairy-tale characters – there’s a card for Baby Bear, a game appropriately called ‘Beware’ for Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf, a get-well jigsaw for hospitalised Humpty Dumpty and three more surprise envelopes containing letters, cards, etc. Everyone’s favourite postman keeps on peddling his bicycle up hill and down dale . . . and into everybody’s hearts.

Introduce the main character – The Postman is jolly, full of food and glad to reach home at last.

Delightful Design

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Audience appeal  Children, adults, anyone who likes Christmas and inventive books.

Your Favourite Scene

There was once a moneybox in the shape of a pig that belonged to a little girl named Angela.  This pig had a curly tail, a coin-shaped slot in his back…and criminal tendencies.  In some ways the pig was quite good-natured, at east when he was empty.  But money is the root of all evil and as he got fuller and fuller, he became boastful.

“I’m rich!” he cried, to the other toys, “I’m the richest creature in this room!” And he rattled his tummy.  “I’m a millionaire!”

One night in the week before Christmas, when the pig was simply bulging with money, he decided to run away.  He rattled.  He scrambled and wobbled down the stairs………..

#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

#FridayBookShare~Pulse by Celina Grace @ShelleyWilson72

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

Pulse is the 10th book in the Kate Redman, detective series by Celina Grace

First Line  Joe could hear the music inside him like a second heartbeat.

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The body of a young man is found in a graveyard the night after a wild, drug-fuelled party. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything sinister about his death, despite the shock of Detective Inspector Mark Olbeck realising that he once knew him.

Detective Sergeant Kate Redman has other things to worry about, not least her ongoing affair with her superior officer Chief Inspector Anderton. But when a second body is found in suspiciously similar circumstances, Kate, Olbeck and the rest of the Abbeyford police team realise they are up against a devious killer who will stop at nothing to indulge a literal thirst for blood…

Introduce the main character – Kate is tenacious, likeable and spontaneous.

Delightful Design

pulse

Audience appeal  Crime investigation and personal relationships in the same package

Your Favourite Scene

“Anyway,” said Anderton resuming his pacing. “This remains a suspicious death and I’m hoping the post mortem will throw up some definite answers as to exactly how Vickers died.  As you know there was a knife wound in his neck, although whether that was made pre or post mortem hasn’t yet been ascertained.  There are a few anomalies around the condition of the body.”  He turned to the crime scene photos. The pallor and pose of the body recalled a marble statue, perhaps a dead knight clasping his sword.

“The blood, sir.”

“Yes I was coming to that.  The body seems to have lost a lot of blood- indeed, that may well be the cause of death – but the odd thing is that there isn’t a lot of blood on the scene.”

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

Lost in Static by Christina Philippou #TuesdayBookBlog

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I was not at all sure that I would be able to identify with this novel, since it is over 40 years since I walked into the hall of residence of my university campus, but in fact things haven’t really changed all that much and I found the story compulsive reading.

The novel is told through the voices of the four main characters; Juliette, who is trying to escape her rigidly Christian upbringing, Callum, a rich, good-looking young man with a family secret, Yasmin, an annoyingly superficial girl with her own agenda and Ruby, a football loving tomboy with low self-esteem. Opening with a tragic accident at the end of the summer term, the story moves back to the first day of the Autumn term when the four characters first meet. They are all trying to make a good impression but they are also attempting to have a new persona, concealing the aspects of their past lives which they do not wish to share.

It is easiest to identify with Ruby, although I wish she would stop calling everyone “mate”, including herself. From a shy mousy girl, lacking confidence she blossoms into a popular, sociable student, but we realise from her internal dialogue that she still feels inadequate. Juliette is complex and interesting and you can’t help liking her. Callum is like so many privileged, handsome young men; good-hearted, lazy and easily manipulated. Yasmine is an enigma. Although reasons are given, just why she is so poisonous in her attitude to the other girls, isn’t clear.

Other reviewers have commented on the drugs and alcohol involved in the story but it is the constant chain-smoking which shocked me. Set in the era just before it was banned in public places, there are interesting clashes between the smokers and those like Callum who disapprove.

As is usually the case, misunderstanding provokes much of the storyline but secrets and lies enhance the drama of the situation. I found the setting, writing style and denouement very refreshing.

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Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static  is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

Tom-All-Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd #FridayBookShare

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

Tom-All-Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd  contains the ingredients I love to find in a book; well-researched history, a touch of mystery, literary quality and a special twist.

First Line   The young man at the desk puts down his pen and sits back in his chair.  The fog has been thickening all afternoon, and whatever sun might once have shone is now sinking fast.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

The story of Tom-All-Alone’s takes place in the ‘space between’ two masterpieces of mid-Victorian fiction: Bleak House and The Woman in White – overlapping with them, and re-imagining them for a contemporary reader, with a modern understanding of the grimmer realities of Victorian society. Charles Maddox, dismissed from the police force, is working as a private detective and can only hope to follow in his uncle’s formidable footsteps as an eminent thief-taker. On a cold and bright Autumn morning, a policeman calls on Charles at his lodgings with information that may be related to a case he is working on. He goes to a ruined cemetery to find a shallow grave containing the remains of four babies has been discovered. After examining them he concludes they are not related to his investigation, which is to find a young girl abandoned in a workhouse 16 years before, when her mother died. But all is not as it first appears. As he’s drawn into another case at the behest of the eminent but feared lawyer, Edward Tulkinghorn, London’s sinister underbelly begins to emerge. From the first gruesome murder, Charles has a race against time to establish the root of all evil. Tom’s-All-Alone is ‘Dickens but darker’ – without the comedy, without the caricature, and a style all its own. The novel explores a dark underside of Victorian life that Dickens and Collins hinted at – a world in which young women are sexually abused, unwanted babies summarily disposed of, and those that discover the grim secrets of great men brutally eliminated.

Introduce the main character – Charles believes in justice and cares for those who suffer but he is sometimes thoughtless and careless.

Delightful Design

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Audience appeal  A lover of Dickens’ London who would like to see deeper into the sort of characters you might find in Bleak House.

Your Favourite Scene

“As you will recall from your own days in the Detective’ when a certain person has been seen more than once at the scene of the crime, when that person has, indeed, been heard arguing with the victim- even, perhaps, threatening him- a threat witnessed by a most unimpeachable source- then it’s in the natural way of things that I should seek out that person and bring him in for questioning.  So, young Charles, am I to call in assistance or is the deed done?”

Charles stares at him for a long moment, as if weighing his options.  “There’s no need for that. If I have to come I’ll come quietly.”

“All the same,” says Bucket affably, “this is a very serious charge, Charles, and I have a preference to do such things by the book.”

He takes a pair of cuffs from his pocket and stands, holding them, waiting.  Charles stares back angrily but says nothing, and eventually holds out his hands in silence.

It is mercifully a very short way to Bow Street, so it is barely half an hour later that Charles finds himself in an underground cell, the iron-bound door of which he knows only too well, even if this is the first time he has seen it from the inside.

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

Primary Sources from the 20th century: Reviews of “Notes on Voyage” and “Zeppelin Letters” by David Ransom

David Ransom is an amateur historian with specialist interests which have drawn him towards fascinating sources.  These two books reveal a diary and the letters of people who were alive in interesting times.

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Notes on Voyage is the diary of John Lynn and his family as they travel to Australia in 1911 to start a new life.  David Ransom has put the diary in its historical context and gives us information about the Lynn family, but it is John Lynn’s voice who speaks to us through his adventure.

The long voyage round South Africa, not stopping until they first reached Australia, must have been very wearing.  I have made this voyage myself, but with stops en route to relieve the monotony.  But the passengers and crew came up with many ideas to occupy themselves such as chess, music and football.  They watched flying fish and battleships and on the hottest nights slept on deck or indulged in pillow fights.  They endured a frightening hurricane and a mutiny by some of the crew.

This book is an opportunity to share the experiences of a hopeful and likeable family as they bravely set out over a hundred years ago.

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Zeppelin Letters takes us to the Home Front during World War One, as we share the experiences of Londoners of the time, through the letters they wrote. We read of the horror and fear when the Zeppelins, and later planes, came to bomb the city and gain understanding of the difficulties people had, finding food and going about their everyday lives. I was surprised to discover how much disruptive and fatal bombing there was during a war when there were no air-raid shelters.

 
The letter writers were Maud Norris, George Vernon Hatch and Irene Magraw. Maud wrote to her brother, who was in New Zealand; George Hatch worked in an office during the day and volunteered at a searchlight station for the Civil Defence; Irene, who was married to a clergyman, wrote chatty letters to her mother.

 
Irene’s letters, including details about her little dog, Smut, and baby Betty are the liveliest to read, but the combination of different viewpoints alongside official reports give a vivid picture of the dramatic events from 1915 to 1917. This is a must read for anyone interested in social history and particularly of wartime London. I very much enjoyed it.

Notes on Voyage can be found here and  Zeppelin Letters is also available at Amazon UK

David Ransom

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David Ransom was born in Brighton, UK. He served an apprenticeship as a compositor in the days of hot metal printing, trained as a Monotype keyboard operator, and eventually moved on to Apple computers and magazine design.

He has always had a fascination with history and has a varied collection of miscellaneous items related to Pitcairn Island, the New Zealand Shipping Company, and the history of photography. Occasionally some of these areas come together, and it is as a result of these fortunate links that he aims to produce books for the Kindle.

His next book will cover the New Zealand Shipping Company’s “Remuera” and its connection with Pitcairn Island.

#FridayBookShare ~ Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson @ShelleyWilson72

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

Ever since I discovered Case Histories many years ago I have been a great fan of Kate Atkinson.  Emotionally Weird is one of her early books, set in Dundee, which I read appropriately while staying in Dundee, although that is not necessary.

First Line   My mother is a virgin (trust me) my mother Nora- A fiery Caledonian beacon- says she is untouched by the hand of man and is as pure as Joan of Arc or the snow on the Grampians.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories.

Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was – variously Jimmy, Jack, or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers).

But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Why is everyone writing novels? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

Introduce the main character – Effie is an observer, a novelist, a wordsmith.

Delightful Design

emotionally-weird

Audience appeal  This might appeal to those who are familiar with Atkinson’s recent novels or more to those who like absurdity such as Flann O’Brien’s books.  You are taken back to 1970s student life.

Your Favourite Scene

I was sitting next to Terri- a black wolf prowling the night.  Terri’s assignment for Martha was poetry.  Terri’s poems came under the collective title My Favourite Suicide and you can probably imagine the content matter.  Some of them (although undoubtedly derivative) were surprisingly cheerful-

I drank the glass of

milk you left on the

bedside table. It was

sour, thank you

Martha was wearing a long cashmere plaid woven from the dull colours of infinity, that she had fixed, toga-style, with a claw of some bird, a grouse or a ptarmigan maybe, set with a purple amethyst.

Andrea was making a great show of sharpening her pencils and laying everything out on her little table while Kevin was staring at the space Olivia’s feet would have occupied if she had been there.

“I think we should begin with a little exercise to flex our writing muscles,” Martha said, speaking very slowly as if she was on prescription drugs but I think it was just her way of trying to communicate with people less intelligent than she thought she was.

“Write me a paragraph,” Martha enunciated clearly, in just 10 minutes, which incorporates these three word bractate, trowel and vilifies.”

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.