The Long Journey Home by Wendy Robertson #BookReview

Long Journey

The arrival of the Japanese army in 1942 marked the end of colonial life in Singapore.  The pre-war round of parties, games of tennis and servants, disappeared overnight as the British women and children attempted to escape by ship, while their menfolk were unable to defend the island and were quickly imprisoned in Changi jail.  Meanwhile many of the Chinese population were murdered or tortured.

Ten-year-old Sylvie has had a privileged life despite her mother’s coldness.  Tutored by Virginia Chen, a Eurasian graduate in her late 20s, she is able to meet many other people in the multiracial city.  When her father takes his family to the docks to board one of the last ships, an aerial attack causes confusion and she is left behind.  Eventually finding Virginia, the two of them try to survive the rest of the war together.

This thrilling and very credible story relates the horror, comradeship and continuing racial tension.  The deep friendship between Virginia and Sylvie helps them to endure the hunger and cruelty but peace threatens to divide them forever.  There is a hint of romance for Virginia and we wonder whether Sylvie will ever see her beloved father again and there are some pleasing family connections to be discovered.

I have read many other books about the fall of Singapore, since so many true stories of endurance and suffering can be told, but this was a book I could not put down and the stratas of social behaviour and need for racial equality make it a novel worth reading in the 21st century.

Wendy Robertson

W Robertson

Scatty and disorganised about most things except my writing and reading I drift through life in search of the next idea, the wonderful next story. I have been living this life for the last twenty years after a career in teaching up to degree level. I embraced teaching as a creative enterprise but was always a writer who happened to teach, publishing three books while I was still working as well as some short stories and journalism. After that I surrendered to the writing goddess and published a range of novels and short stories as well as the occasional article.

Oh, and I have a Master’s Degree in Education. Some of those insights thread through the novels too, I suppose.

I have written spasmodically about my life in my short volume A Life In Short Pieces, and in The Romancer: A Writer’s Tale.

I’m fascinated by creativity history, identity, imagination, equality and myth. Recently, on looking through my novels I realise that – although not with any conscious purpose – these themes seem to be threaded through my writing.

In the middle of my writing career I spent five years as Writer in Residence in a women’s prison. This was a life-changing experience for me – broadening my view, deepening my empathy and my understanding of the whole of society. One outcome of that experience was my novel Paulie’s Web This, while fictional, tells some truths about the varied lives of many of the interesting and wise women I met in prison.

The Long Journey Home is available here

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Fury (A Kate Redman Mystery) by Celina Grace #NewRelease #BookReview

Fury

Kate Redman has recently been promoted to Detective Inspector, but she has a new female boss who appears to be undermining her.  Still with the same friendly team at Abbeyford police station she is unsure of what she wants out of her relationship with Anderton.  Soon they are all too busy investigating two murders to be able to worry about their private lives.

Anxious to make her mark in her new role, Kate uses her intuition to find connections between the murders and soon she is travelling to the other end of the country in search of a suspect.  This is an excellent stand-alone murder mystery with very human characters involved in up-to-date predicaments, but it is particularly rewarding for previous readers of the Kate Redman Mysteries to see how she is maturing and assuming responsibility as a policewoman.

Other familiar characters deal with the responsibilities of parenthood and coping with life outside the police force and the blend of relationships and  crime make for a great read.

Fury is available on Amazon UK

Read my reviews of earlier novels in the series by Celina Grace:-

Imago  and  Siren

Celina Grace blogs on http://indieauthorschool.com/blog/

 

Connectedness by Sandra Danby #BookReview

Connectedness by Sandra Danby (002)

Justine Tree is a successful artist, about to be accepted into the Royal Academy.  But we meet her in her childhood home on the East Yorkshire coast, remembering her childhood, as she clears her mother’s home after her funeral. She remembers the encouragement of her parents and her early interest in the life of Picasso.  But she also realises that she is acting a part, concealing secrets from her past.

Justine’s home in London is shared with Darya, a much older woman who understands her art and has been a substitute mother for 27 years.  As Darya sinks into dementia, Justine decides to make more effort to find the baby she gave up all those years ago, a secret which fuels the pain in her art.  She seeks help from journalist, Rose Haldane, who has previously investigated her own adoption.  As we follow the story we also discover cracks in Rose’s “happy” life.

The story moves back to the early 1980s when Justine was a penniless student in Picasso’s birthplace of Malaga.  Bullied by her tutor, and struggling with the language, she meets Frederico, an architecture student who teaches her to embrace Spanish food, language and the way of life.  The sensual description of the succulent Spanish food shared with Frederico, defines their building passion and is vividly remembered by Justine.

There are many layers in this sensitive story.  The nurturing Justine received from her mother is only appreciated in retrospect,

“In the last year, Darya had aged like a film on fast forward.

I wasn’t there for Mum. I will not abandon Darya.”

Will Justine’s daughter forgive her?  Will they be reconciled and what of Frederico, the love of her life?

This is the second book of the “Identity Detective” series, all centred on Rose Haldane who wishes to reunite those who lost members of their family due to adoption.  I have not yet read the first book but will be seeking it out soon.  Sandra Danby is a thought provoking author whose sense of place enhances a fascinating mystery.

Connectedness is on sale at Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

The Identity Detective Series

Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through
adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.           Sandra Danby

Her Secret by Kelly Florentia #FridayReads #BookReview

Her Secret

After 8 years living with Nick, their relationship had broken down, but now, at the age of 42, Audrey is happily married to romantic husband, Daniel, a successful business man with a complicated family.  Surrounded by a close group of friends and pleased with the way her career is progressing, Audrey is content, until she is told a secret which she cannot share with Daniel.  She dare not hurt her loved ones and she fears losing their respect.  Then there are further complications as her first love, Nick returns.  She begins to doubt her sanity, believing she is being followed and even in danger.

 

This fast-moving story, set in north London can easily be read as a standalone but it is even more rewarding if you first read No Way Back.  Audrey is a realistic, modern woman. I love her OCD cleaning and her need to own expensive shoes but also her caring, warm personality.  I didn’t predict the amazing ending as I found myself reading late into the night to discover how Audrey would solve her predicament.

Her Secret can be found on Amazon UK

My review of No Way Back

Double Cheque by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Double

Like all good dramas, “Double Cheque” is about secrets and lies.  As in “Broken Cups,” Heather MacQuarrie’s previous book, the story describes families and young couples with happy lives which can so easily be destroyed by unfaithfulness or anger.

This story centres on Jasmine, a young woman moving into her first flat and her parents, Patty and Kenneth.  Jasmine is devastated to discover that her mother has been conducting an affair, unknown to her father and she enlists the help of her brother Sam.  Patty still loves her husband but cannot resist the excitement of weekends with Dougie.

Jasmine is happy to make new friends, Jillian, Bradley and Alasdair and one of these young men may bring love into her life.  Meanwhile she decides to help mutual friend, Grant to a reconciliation with his father, Cameron Ferguson, who ironically is a good friend of Patty’s lover Dougie.

As a reader it takes a while to get your head around the relationships in this character packed novel but soon you begin to care about their feelings and the predicaments in which they find themselves.  The unpleasantness and difficulties experienced by Alasdair as a result of brain damage from a childhood accident are dealt with sensitively and it is heartening to read of the support he receives from his close circle of friends.

There is also a suspicious death to be dealt with.  We know the perpetrator, but does he deserve our sympathy or approbation?  Will he be caught or betrayed?  This has all the elements of an exciting soap opera.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz #FridayReads #BookReview

Magpie

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Eight for a kiss,
Nine for a wish,
Ten for a bird,
You must not miss.

Magpie Murders is a book within a book.  There is a murder mystery during the 1950s in a Somerset village in the style of “Midsummer Murders” with a wide range of typical characters, each with a secret.  We meet a troubled vicar, a hard-working doctor and her artistic husband, an antique dealer with a shady past and a bombastic, unpleasant lord of the Manor.

Two deaths are investigated by Atticus Pünd, a detective reminiscent of Hercule Poirot, but with a German Jewish background.  Despite the large number of characters, the mystery is intriguing, though rather long-winded.

But beyond this storyline is that of Alan Conway, the author of nine novels about this popular detective.  Alan Is not an engaging man.  He has few friends, has left his wife and child and has had a major row with his loyal sister.  The heroine of this plot is Susan Ryeland, Head of Fiction at Cloverleaf Books, who has edited all of Alan’s books while keeping her distance from him.  When Alan has an accident, only Susan is prepared to look for foul play, despite the opposition of her lover, her boss and the police.

This is a lengthy volume and for me only becomes interesting when Susan takes over the narrative.  Structurally it is clever, and the devices Alan has used are amusing, especially in naming his characters and drawing parallels from his own life.  A worthwhile read with a twist at the end but not my favourite book by Anthony Horowitz.

Magpie Murders on Amazon UK

 

The Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Music of the Spheres

Book Blurb

London, the summer of 1795: a season of revolutionary fervour, scientific discovery and vicious murders. The British government is in disarray, unable to stem the flood of secrets to Paris; betrayals that doom her war efforts to failure. In rural Kensington a group of French emigr-s are pursuing a scientific dream, the discovery of a planet they call Selene. The group has fallen under the spell of a beautiful and amoral woman – Auguste de Montpellier who is at once their muse and dark angel. Meanwhile a killer lurks in the back streets of the capital: the victims are all prostitutes and have been paid in French Louis d’Or, the currency of France’s spies. Jonathan Absey is a Home Office clerk whose official task is to smash the French spy ring. Privately however, he has become obsessed with the murders. These interests intersect when he finds himself drawn into the Montpellier circle, yet his pursuit for truth remains obscured through coded letters, opium and conspiracy. Absey must uncover the mystery before the summer dies; an invasion fleet is being prepared to set sail across the channel and the lives of those on board now rest on his discoveries.

My Review

The end of the 18th century is a fascinating era, when French spies mixed with the aristocratic emigres in London, who had fled to save their heads. The city was a dangerous place for the underclass and Jonathan Absey becomes obsessed with solving the murders of several prostitutes because he believes his daughter was the first victim.

Suspicion falls upon the household of Auguste de Montpellier and her sick brother Guy. Aided by Doctor Raultier, Guy fights his illness to prove the existence of a new planet which he calls Selene, which he believes must exist after the discovery of Uranus by Herschel in 1781. Jonathan persuades his half-brother Alexander Wilmot, a gifted musician and amateur astronomer to make contact with the Montpelliers so that he can discover their secrets, but Alexander is unwilling to betray his new friends and walks into a perilous situation.

There is a gothic quality to this novel, several characters implying languorous evil and sexual deviance.  The historical content is sound, and the suspense increases with each new murder, but only Alexander earns our empathy and for this reason was the only character I could believe in.  Choose this novel for revelations about post-revolutionary Europe and an insight into scientific interests at that time but do not expect to become emotionally involved with people you meet within its pages.

The Music of the Spheres can be purchased on Amazon UK

E Redfern

Elizabeth Redfern

Elizabeth Redfern was born on October 29, 1950 in Cheshire, England and attended the University of Nottingham, where she earned a BA in English. She then earned a post graduate degree as a Chartered Librarian at Ealing College and a post-graduate certificate in teaching at the University of Derby.

Redfern trained and worked as a chartered librarian, first in London and then in Nottingham. She moved to Derbyshire with her husband, a solicitor. And after her daughter was born, Redfern re-trained as a teacher and began work as an adult education lecturer – main subject, English – with the Derbyshire County Council.

Since then, she’s been involved in various projects in nearby towns, including working with the unemployed and skills training in the workplace. She lives with her husband and her daughter, who attends a local school, in a village in the Derbyshire Peak District. In her spare time Redfern plays the violin with a local orchestra, the Chesterfield Symphony Orchestra.