Transcription by Kate Atkinson #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

transcription

 Transcription opens in 1981 when Juliet Armstrong is involved in an accident. As she lies on the ground, injured, her mind goes back to 1940 when she started work in the offices of MI5 and then to 1950 when she was a BBC schools programmes producer. A witty but unemotional protagonist she seems to be recounting events as they happened, but there are omissions, and can we really trust her testimony?

I loved this book, much preferring it to Life After Life. The story of how MI5 monitored Nazi sympathisers and the account of  the amoral social life of 1940 are fascinating. Juliet’s observations on a woman’s role, always making the tea but also sent out to risk her life on potentially dangerous missions without any training, reflect reality. At times, this novel made me laugh out loud, at others, it is tense and thrilling and always slightly puzzling. There are so many intriguing characters, from Peregrine Gibbons, so dapper but resisting her charms (Juliet’s naivety is believable) to Godfrey Talbot, the likeable double agent, via delightful Cyril, her hard-working companion in Dolphin Square and the tactless Daisy who is supposed to assist Juliet at the BBC.

As Juliet listens in to meetings between Godfrey and a group of fascist sympathisers her transcriptions are sketchy. Words are missing when the dog barks and we don’t have a complete picture of what is happening. This reflects Juliet’s story. She has the ability to lie easily, making her an effective spy and yet she cares deeply about the fate of a young maid who briefly helps her and who, like Juliet, is an orphan.

This is a deep novel with a light tone. It is interesting to read from the context of today’s politics and society. And if you are wondering, the flamingo on the cover is explained towards the end of the story. There has been criticism by some reviewers of the denouement in which we are told in a rapid summary how threads in the story linked and we learn more about Juliet’s motivation, but I am on the fence on this. It satisfied my queries but possibly could have been revealed more subtly. However, the texture and quality of the writing is so delightful I could happily read it all over again next week.

 Transcription is available atAmazon UK

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Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson #BookReview #AmReading

Innocent Graves

 Innocent Graves is the eighth novel in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, following on from Dry Bones That Dream.

One foggy night, Deborah Harrison is found lying in the churchyard behind St Mary’s, Eastvale. She has been strangled with the strap of her own school satchel.

But Deborah was no typical sixteen-year old. Her father was a powerful financier who moved in the highest echelons of industry, defence and classified information. And Deborah, it seemed, enjoyed keeping secrets of her own . . .

With his colleague Detective Constable Susan Gay, Inspector Alan Banks moves along the many suspects, guilty of crimes large and small. And as he does so, plenty of sordid secrets and some deadly lies begin to emerge . . .

I chose to read Innocent Graves thanks to a recommendation from Amazon and it is only now that I have finished the book that I discover it is one of 24 Inspector Banks novels which have been on TV, starring Stephen Tomkinson. I dimly remember enjoying a few episodes but for me the book is more intense and compelling.

Inspector Banks is an empathetic character, even though, at times, he can be unpleasantly aggressive to the suspects he interviews. Despite the annoying bias his boss shows, in sucking up to rich influential locals, Banks is determined to find the murderer by methodical, thorough police work. The unusual feature of this novel is that we also see the case from the viewpoint of the man they arrest. Without knowing whether he is guilty or innocent we witness the way his life falls apart and he is forced to wait in a sordid, claustrophobic police cell for several months before going to court.

The book introduces a variety of characters who might have had a motive to kill Deborah but circumstantial evidence make it difficult for the police and the reader to select the culprit. I had my suspicions, but the denouement was well constructed. Towards the end I could not put the book down until all was revealed.

Innocent Graves is available on Amazon UK

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada. Peter has written twenty-four books in the Number One Bestselling DCI Banks series as well as two collections of short stories and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is Number One bestseller BEFORE THE POISON. Peter’s critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.

Blood Reckoning by Dan Wadell #TuesdayBook Blog #BookReview

Blood Reckoning

Blood Reckoning is the third book about DCI Grant Foster and his occasional working relationship with genealogist, Nigel Barnes.  The two are also linked by Grant’s colleague DS Heather Jenkins, who is Nigel’s girlfriend.  On this occasion the two men are working on separate cases. Nigel is straying away from his usual family research, as he investigates relationships and location for the causes of a young girl’s terrible nightmares.

Foster’s horrifying murder investigations take him back to his early career as a young police officer in Newcastle.  In 1992, a well-respected 73-year-old man had been murdered by two young boys.  On their release, they were given new identities but now Foster must revisit the scene and the circumstances of the murder.  This major part of the novel is a gripping detective investigation by a policeman determined to find the truth without favour. An intense fast-moving plot reveals the far-reaching repercussions of the original case and in an unusual twist Nigel Barnes becomes personally entangled with the latest events.

Unlike the earlier books, crime features more prominently than genealogy, so this novel may have a wider audience, but personally I have enjoyed each of the three books.  The characterisation of the two men is believable and each book stands on its own. A solid contemporary murder mystery.

Blood Reckoning can be purchased at Amazon UK

Dan Wadell

Dan Waddell is a journalist and author of more than a twenty works of fiction and non-fiction. His first crime novel, The Blood Detective, was nominated for three debut awards, included the celebrated CWA New Blood Dagger, and has been published in five countries. He is also the author of the bestselling guide that accompanied the award-winning BBC TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?

An exiled Yorkshireman, Dan has been a cricket fanatic since he witnessed his first England batting collapse aged six. He was a talented junior batsman, played representative cricket for Yorkshire and was even once, briefly, on the payroll of the county club itself. After being lost to journalism for several years, he made a misguided comeback and now captains Acton 2nd XI in the Middlesex County League where, in between taking painkillers, he tries and fails to pass on sage advice to young players. He covered two seasons of county cricket for The Daily Telegraph and his first ever published work was the history of BBC TV’s cricket coverage, And Welcome to the Highlights, where he got to interview David Gower, Richie Benaud and his boyhood hero, Geoffrey Boycott. It has been downhill ever since…

An Unconventional Officer by Lynn Bryant #BookReview

Unconventional

A story of love and war in Wellington’s army 

In 1802 Europe is going back to war, General Arthur Wellesley is commanding troops in India and the officers and men of the 110th infantry are about to get the shock of their lives as a new officer arrives in barracks.

Paul van Daan is young, wealthy, arrogant and ready to take on the Maratha, the French and whole of the British army. A talented and charismatic leader of men, he needs to learn to curb his temper and adjust to the rigid army hierarchy in order to rise in his chosen profession. On the way he makes enduring friendships forged on the battlefields of India and Europe and builds an unexpected bond with the difficult, unemotional commander of the Peninsular army, Sir Arthur Wellesley.

There are many women in Paul’s life but only two who touch his heart.

Rowena Summers, a shy young governess straight from a charity school. Serene and gentle, her love and companionship give Paul a stability he had not known he lacked.

Anne Howard the extraordinary daughter of a wealthy manufacturer who marries a fellow officer and changes everything Paul thought he knew about women.

Amidst the violence and tragedy of the war against Napoleon an unforgettable love story unfolds which affects the lives of everybody it touches and changes the 110th forever.

This is the first book in the Peninsular War series which tells the story of the men and women of the 110th infantry, a regiment like no other in Wellington’s army.

My Review

I have always been fascinated by the long years of battles and skirmishes in the Iberian Peninsular at the beginning of the 19th century. Here men from all backgrounds were thrown together to fight alongside Spanish and Portuguese soldiers against Napoleon’s army. The extra interest was the presence of many women, officers’ wives enjoying social interaction and soldiers’ wives surviving in camp in horrendous conditions by doing laundry and cooking.

But this book is no boring account of warfare, for the tension, jealousy, romance and passion of the main characters make it a real page turner. There’s a sprinkling of Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe stories, the eroticism of an Outlander book and a totally original take on the role of women in this isolated community so distant from life at home in England.  In addition, there are terrifying incidents of danger and violence which keep you on the edge of your seat.

Paul Van Daan is an irresistible, irritating hero, who doesn’t obey the conventions or stick to military rules, but he has survived two and a half years in Nelson’s navy and his strict but fair way of treating the men of the 110th Light company keeps their loyalty and determination.  Though Paul finds it difficult to resist an attractive woman, he always treats them with respect and within this novel, he finds in his loyal wife, Rowena and in the forthright, stunning Anne, reason to live and to fight for justice.  The situation the trio find themselves in, is absurd and cannot have a happy outcome and yet they remain steadfast to each other.  It a very unusual plot but it works in a time when men lived by their wits and good and evil were more pronounced.

I loved this novel for its historical accuracy and its imaginative storyline. Highly recommended.

An Unconventional Officer can be purchased at Amazon UK

Seaglass by Eloise Williams #BookReview #AmReading

Seaglass

She will come for you… Lark struggles when her family and their friends go on holiday in a lonely caravan site on the Welsh coast for the autumn half term. Her mother is ill, her little sister has stopped speaking and she has fallen out with her best friend. Is a girl in a green dress following her in the fog? Or is her sister playing tricks on her? When a local woman tells her the girl comes to take sisters, Lark finds herself the only one who can save her family. Perfect for fans of Emma Carroll and Lucy Strange, Seaglass is a chilling contemporary ghost story with a determined 13-year-old heroine defending her family and learning to handle her emotions.

My Review

Seaglass is a Middle Grade novel for anyone from 10 to 90, as long as you can remember what it’s like to be 13, anxious and angry. Set in a caravan park on the Welsh coast during the Autumn Half Term it was an ideal read over the nights of Halloween and bonfire night.

To help her mother, Lark tries to look after her little sister, but Snow’s muteness makes communication difficult. From the moment they arrive in the seaside town, strange things occur and she is warned about a ghostly danger to her sister.

Eloise Williams writes beautiful descriptive passages of the beach and coastline, full of poetic expression and she enables us to enter Lark’s mind, seeing her worries, her rage and fear.  Misunderstanding within Lark’s family have increased her stress and a secret from her grandmother’s childhood is now affecting Lark and Snow.  But there is comradeship and affection from their community of friends even if sometimes this leads them into dangerous predicaments. The book deals with racism, friendship, bullying and loss within the context of a mysterious, atmospheric tale.

Seaglass can be found on Amazon UK

 

 

The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin #BookReview

Memory

The most important things in life . . . are not things at all.

Nora is fleeing London for her childhood home in Dublin after her heart is suddenly torn apart. Back home, she learns she has inherited all of her grandmother’s worldly belongings – a feather shrug, a Tiffany mirror, a gold locket, and many more precious things besides.

With no means of keeping them, and not able to bear auctioning everything off, Nora decides to open The Memory Shop so each object is matched to a perfect new owner.

Soon Nora begins transforming the lives of those around her through the items she pairs them with, helping them find new happiness in unexpected ways. Now if she can only let go of her own past, she might just surprise herself . . .

An uplifting novel set in a charming Irish community, about love, family and finding your way.

My Review

There is something about Irish authors; concerns of the heart are paramount and despite sadness and mistreatment, goodness will out.  I was drawn to this book by the concept of inherited treasures being sold to the most appropriate new owner.

At first the novel reads like a set of short stories about different characters, such as widower Will and his unhappy daughter, or Caroline whose marriage is disintegrating, but gradually they link back to Nora, the heroine, who is determined to put her boyfriend’s betrayal behind her while she earns money for her unhappy mother, Alann.  Finding notes from her grandmother hidden among the precious items, she hopes to discover more about the estrangement between her mother and grandmother.

There are several tales of faithless, promiscuous men and yet there are also feel-good solutions for some of the couples.  The local community in this part of Dublin are, in the spirit of a popular film, almost too good to be true, but that did not diminish my pleasure in reading the book. Finally, the tragic revelation about Nora’s grandmother rooted this charming tale in reality.

The Memory Shop on Amazon UK

Ella Griffin

E Griffin

Ella Griffin was born in Dublin. She was an award-winning advertising copywriter before she took the leap into fiction. She has written four novels since 2011. She loves making readers laugh and cry (sometimes on the same page.) Ella lives with her husband in County Wicklow in Ireland.

You can find Ella at www.ellagriffin.com, Facebook/EllaGriffinAuthor and @EllaGriffin1

 

Being a Beta Reader & receiving ARCs #FridayReads #AmReading

Jessie

I’m feeling like a real book reviewer this week as I’m a Beta reader for non-fiction author, Barbara J Starmans’ first fiction book. Barbara is responsible for the fascinating Social Historian website https://www.thesocialhistorian.com/ and she is now writing a novel based on the story of her great-grandmother.

Clockmaker

I’ve also received 2 ARC books.  The first, being delivered in instalments, is “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Australian author, Kate Morton, whose time-shift novels I always enjoy. It will be published on September 20th.  I am reading this on my iPad via The Pigeonhole which includes comments from current readers. I found this very distracting so have deleted that feature!

Gift Horse Cover MEDIUM WEB

The other ARC is by Jan Ruth, one of my favourite authors.   Called “Gift Horse,” it is about a real horse but also about the eponymous proverb and will be published in October. I am looking forward to reviewing both these books.