The Forgotten Children by Ann Bennett #NewRelease #HistFic #TuesdayBookBlog

Paris, 1941. As we drive down the cobbled street, I take in the red banners with swastikas covering every building. Suddenly a group of guards appears. I duck beneath the window of the car, and my heart thumps as my hand jumps to my chest. But I’m not wearing my yellow star now, I left it with my sister. Tears well in my eyes. Will I ever see her again?

1939. Standing in front of the orphanage’s imposing stone walls, eleven-year-old Jewish twins Helga and Ruth shiver with fear. The war has taken their mother and father, their home in Berlin has been turned to rubble, but their soft, dark eyes meet and Helga gives Ruth a reassuring smile. They should be safe here together.

Yet every day bombs fly overhead. And when Ruth becomes desperately unwell, the girls are torn apart. As war rages on, will they ever find each other?

Paris, 1990. When Naomi moves to Paris, she hopes the city will help her find herself again. But whilst exploring the antique markets in the early morning sun, she is shocked to discover a duplicate of a photograph her mother Helga has on her mantelpiece back in London of a magnificent vine-covered villa on the outskirts of the city. Naomi soon discovers it was used as an orphanage during the Second World War. But why was the photo so precious to her mother?

My Review

The Forgotten Children were those from Jewish families who were separated from their parents by the Nazis during the Second World War. Helga was one of those children. Now in 1990 she is still keeping her experiences secret from her daughter Naomi. As her daughter sets off for 6 months work in a Paris legal office Helga says nothing of the time when she too lived in the French capital. In dual time we follow Naomi’s experiences making new friends and working hard at a task which she loves, and then life for Helga and her twin sister Ruth in 1938. Living with their parents they have a happy life in Berlin unaware of the dark forces about to change everything.

This well researched novel features real events including the violent acts on Kristallnacht, the ill-fated voyage of the St Louis to Cuba and the many kind people who tried to help Jewish children escape from the Nazis. As Helga struggles to talk about her past, Naomi investigates the villa outside Paris which she recognises from a photograph in her mother’s bedroom. This causes a rift in her relationship with Helga on top of the feeling of estrangement between Naomi and her boyfriend, Liam, back in London.

Against the background of the breaking down of the Berlin wall, Helga lets down her defences and the reader becomes totally involved in her incredible life story. It’s an emotional experience of suffering and generosity. Helga is a survivor but at what cost to her mental well-being? Luckily Naomi’s maturity and understanding gradually brings them closer. As with all of Ann Bennett’s stories I was gripped by the intensity of the plot and couldn’t stop turning the pages.

The Forgotten Children on Amazon UK

My review of The Runaway Sisters by Ann Bennett

Burke and the lines of Torres Vedras (James Burke 7) by Tom Williams #BookReview #RBRT

French spies are probing the secret of Wellington’s defences while Burke seeks out traitors in Lisbon.

1810 and Wellington needs to protect his army against Napoleon’s stronger forces in the Peninsula. His answer? The Lines of Torres Vedras: one of the greatest defensive works the world has ever seen. But for his strategy to work, the Lines must stay a secret until the French arrive.

Fresh from a successful mission in Paris, Burke is sent to Lisbon. The Portuguese capital is home to French sympathisers, disaffected aristocrats, and desperate men who will do anything for money. Can Burke hunt down Napoleon’s agents hidden among them? The outcome of the Peninsular War could depend on his success.

The latest of the James Burke stories finds the soldier-spy fighting French plots against a background of real people and historically accurate events.

My Review

This was my second meeting with the charismatic James Burke although the seventh of Tom Williams’ fictional accounts of this real character from history. I have driven through the mainly unspoilt countryside of Portugal and Spain where events of the Peninsular War between Britain and France occurred during the early 19th century and found this story about the defensive fortifications, built to protect the British Army in Lisbon from the French, particularly interesting. The energetic engineer, Colonel Fletcher who masterminded the construction of the forts and earthworks, comes alive on the pages of the book and the Portuguese characters on Burke’s side are particularly endearing.

Having established that Burke has been temporarily promoted to the rank of Colonel, we learn that his task is to discover the traitors and spies in Lisbon who may be plotting to return the French army to the city. Burke and his talented sergeant, William Brown, soon have a useful group of friends and acquaintances across Lisbon society. After meeting Marta, a skilled portrait artist, they persuade her to accompany then to an insalubrious bar so that she can sketch the lowlife colluding with two Portuguese aristocrats. At first, they are successful in identifying one of the plotters but then things start to go wrong and both Brown and Marta are in peril.

I became completely immersed in the fast-moving plot and engaging characters and enjoyed travelling with them through the back streets of old Lisbon as well as in the countryside between the fortifications. I can heartily recommend this thrilling adventure to those who enjoy history and also to anyone who loves an exciting, inventive plot.

Burke and the Lines of Torres Vedras on Amazon UK

My Review of Burke in the Peninsula

Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century that are generally described as fiction but which are often more honest than the business books. (He writes contemporary fantasy as well, but that’s a dark part of his life, so you’ll have to explore that on your own – ideally with a friend and a protective amulet.)

His stories about James Burke (based on a real person) are exciting tales of high adventure and low cunning set around the Napoleonic Wars. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt, and Spain and call it research.

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which (before covid) he thought he did quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.

Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website,

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh #Crime #TuesdayBookBlog #Mystery #Review


On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests. He’s celebrating the success of his lakeside holiday homes and has generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours.

By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.

On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects. She grew up in the tiny community, so the murder suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.

My Review

This murder investigation captured my imagination from its first few pages. Set in north Wales on a lake bordering England it pits rich holiday home owners against local Welsh villagers, struggling to keep businesses going. Rhys Lloyd, a famous singer, is seen by some as a hypocrite, apparently proud of his homeland yet exploiting his unspoilt inheritance by building luxury homes to sell for profit. So no-one is that surprised when his body is found in the lake. There are many suspects, mostly well-known to DC Ffion Morgan because she has always lived in the village.

Initially annoyed that she must work alongside DC Leo Brady of the Cheshire police, Ffion gradually finds his support useful and their prickly relationship softens. But Ffion is concealing important evidence which Leo might wish to use against her.

The story moves back and forwards revealing events surrounding the murder from the points of view of many of the suspects. We begin to understand the motivation of the characters and try to identify the guilty party, but twists and complications make this very difficult. The Last Party is a real page turner making me a supporter of both Leo and Ffion in the trials they suffer. I am so pleased to discover that there is a follow up Ffion Morgan thriller soon to be published.

The Last Party on Amazon UK

Clare’s website is

Clean Break (PI Kate Brannigan, Book 4) by Val McDermid #BookReview #Crime #Thriller #Mystery

When a Monet is stolen from a stately home, Manchester-based private eye Kate Brannigan goes head-to-head with organized crime as she hunts the thieves through Europe.

Meanwhile, someone is leaving a trail of bodies across the Northwest. As Kate confronts some harsh truths in her own life, the case stretches her love and loyalty to its limits.

My Review

Clean Break is the 4th story about private investigator Kate Brannigan, but the first I have read. Kate is a spunky, brave woman with loyal friends and an unusual relationship with her boyfriend, music journalist, Richard. I had no problem reading this as a stand alone since Kate’s lifestyle is clearly shown and the occasional back reference puts events in context. Though definitely not a cosy mystery there is no gratuitous violence included in the novel.

Juggling two important cases and a possible new relationship keeps Kate on the move, travelling across Europe and putting herself into dangerous situations. Her contacts among former criminals enable her to be ahead of the police in following up the theft of a work of art while industrial sabotage has more domestic connections. Although set in the 1990s, Kate and the other well rounded characters feel part of our modern world. Some of the plot twists may stretch possibilities but this adds to the enjoyment of this fast-moving story. I am looking forward to picking up another of her adventures in the future.

Clean Break on Amazon UK

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