British Bulldog: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan #BookReview

British

 

1954, Brighton, London and Paris

When Mirabelle receives a bequest from a lately deceased wartime acquaintance she is mystified – she hardly knew the man but it is not long before she realises that he certainly knew her. She is drawn back to re-examine her memories of WWII and is shocked to find that other people’s experiences do not chime with her own and more importantly, with what she knows of her erstwhile lover, Jack Duggan. Following the trail to the threads of what’s left of the resistance movement in Paris, Mirabelle is forced to face secrets she didn’t even know that she had.

This is the 4th Mirabelle Bevan mystery I have read after a gap of several years. From that standpoint it is clear to me that you can enjoy reading British Bulldog without any background knowledge. You will soon discover that Mirabelle is a brave and sometimes foolhardy heroine, determined to get to the truth in her investigations.

Leaving her friends and colleagues in Brighton, Mirabelle travels to Paris to look for Philip Caine, a British serviceman who disappeared in 1944. She is astonished to discover that Philip had worked alongside her deceased lover, Jack Duggan, and that Jack had lied to her about many aspects of his life. From the moment that she approaches one of Philip’s ex-contacts from the Resistance Mirabelle finds herself in danger, but she cannot resist following clues and instigating action. Just when Mirabelle is at her lowest, her close friend Superintendent Alan McGregor arrives in Paris, out of his depth, but prepared to risk everything to save her.

This fast-moving adventure is authentically described in its 1950s context and expresses the confusion and depression felt by many people post-war. Outdated views about the role of women have been challenged during wartime but domesticity is returning to those without Mirabelle’s bold courage. A great adventure which could so easily be transferred to the screen.

British Bulldog can be purchased at Amazon UK

Sara Sheridan

Sara

“History is a treasure chest which contains not only facts and figures, archive material and artefacts but stories. I love the stories.”

Sara Sheridan was born in Edinburgh and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. She works in a wide range of media and genres. Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she has been nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She has also received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. She sits on the committee for the Society of Authors in Scotland (where she lives) and on the board of ’26’ the campaign for the importance of words. She’s taken part in 3 ’26 Treasures’ exhibitions at the V&A, London, The National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. She occasionally blogs on the Guardian site about her writing life and puts her hand up to being a ‘twitter evangelist’. From time to time she appears on radio, most recently reporting for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. Sara is a member of the Historical Writers Association and the Crime Writers Association. A self-confessed ‘word nerd’ her favourite book is ‘Water Music’ by TC Boyle.

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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.

 

 

White Nights (Shetland Book 2) by Ann Cleeves #amreading

White Nights

When Shetland detective Jimmy Perez finds a body in a hut used by fishermen it seems to be a straightforward case of suicide. He recognizes the victim – a stranger with amnesia who had disrupted a local party the night before his death.

Yet this is no desperate act of anguish, but the work of a cold and calculating killer. As Perez investigates, he finds himself mired in the hidden secrets of the small Biddista community. Then another body is found.

Perez knows he must break the cycle before another death occurs. But this is a crazy time of year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems.

My Review

In contrast to the harsh winter conditions of the first Shetland Book, White Nights is set in the relentless light and birdsong of midsummer when tourists swarm off the ferries and cruise ships, but most of the events occur in a tiny remote community where six young people grew up together. At first there is very little concern about the death of an outsider but once one of their own is murdered, fear and suspicion is rife.
Once again Liverpudlian DCI Roy Taylor has arrived from Inverness to take over the case, but he and Jimmy Perez have grudging respect for each other, allowing Jimmy to quietly talk to Kenny, who found the body, and others who might have seen something that evening. Jimmy’s budding relationship with Fran Hunter is at the early stages so the fact that the murder is linked to the art exhibition Fran has shared with flamboyant artist, Bella Sinclair, worries him.
There are wonderful descriptions of the changing light on the countryside, of the myriad of birds and about the gathering of the sheep for shearing. Very gradually we come to know more about Bella’s past and her affection for her nephew Roddy, a talented musician. Relationships between the other residents of Biddista are examined both by Perez and the reader, while amusing comments are made about the nosy observations of author, Peter Wilding, looking out of his window as he sits writing his latest novel.
The plot darkens as new discoveries are made in a clifftop chasm and Jimmy has to face his vertigo. In a care home, Willy, an old sailor, may hold the key to the mystery but he is lost in the realms of Alzheimer so the links with the outside world must be followed by Taylor and Perez. Another engaging read about passions and greed.

White Nights can be purchased from Amazon UK

My review of Raven Black, the first Shetland book is here

Gold Plated by Christine Campbell #FridayReads #RBRT

Gold plated

Rosanna and Paul are celebrating their Golden Wedding with a grand party at the local Golf Club.  Aided by their only daughter Heather, Rosanna is making sure that everything is perfect including baking a delicious cake and buying Paul the ideal gift, but have all their years together been so perfect?

The clock is turned back to 1964 when Rosanna started at Art college and Paul was her young, charismatic tutor.  Lacking confidence in herself, she was astonished that he chose her as his “secret” girlfriend, but against all odds, they have now been married for 50 years.  Abandoning her earlier artistic ambitions, Rosanna has looked after their lovely home while Paul continued his successful teaching career.

Christine Campbell is skilled at putting us inside Rosanna’s head.  We begin to understand her calm, quiet personality and her loyal, loving nature.  We can see that Paul takes her for granted but they seem to have a happy marriage.  But at the party everything changes in a dramatic way. Secrets are revealed, treachery exposed, and Rosanna’s life is in tatters.

This is a story, with which we can all identify in some way.  It is sadly true that many women, and men, can suddenly find themselves alone as old age approaches and dealing with the collapse of all they believed in can be catastrophic. But this is not a sad story, there is a positive message that life is what we make of it and Rosanna discovers new personal qualities of independence and self-reliance as well as rekindling her creativity.

Personally, I would have preferred the story to have been written in the past tense, especially for the scenes from the past, but that is probably just my particular bête-noire!  The detailed involvement in Rosanna’s rollercoasting emotions and cleverly plotted, surprising events make this book a very rewarding read.

Gold Plated is available on Amazon UK

Christine Campbell

Christine Campbell

Christine Campbell lives in a small village outside of Edinburgh with her husband, whatever assortment of children and grandchildren happen to be visiting at the time, and awaiting her first great-granddaughter. How exciting is that?

When she has a moment of peace, and is not distracted by the varied wildlife currently taking up residence in her garden and the field beyond, Christine writes novels or posts on her blog at cicampbellblog.wordpress.com as well as producing occasional videos about her writing on her Facebook page and YouTube.

Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist Of Stories can be found on Facebook

My review of Searching for Summer by Christine Campbell

Lost Voices of the Edwardians by Max Arthur #amreading #bookreview

Edwardians

I am a sucker for any book about the Victorians or Edwardians so when I spotted Max Arthur’s book in a charity shop I immediately bought it.  It is a compilation of testimony from people who grew up or lived during the Edwardian era, 1901-1910.  The memories of mostly ordinary people have been transcribed as small snippets in chapter themes such as childhood, work, suffragettes and military.  There is an index at the back if you wish to look up subjects such as The House of Commons or chicken pox.

One young lady describes how she was approached by a pleasant lady asking for guidance in reaching Waterloo station. She was then persuaded to accompany the woman to her home in Gray’s Inn Road.  Being joined along the road by two men, the younger one took the young lady aside to say, “Little girl, she’s no fit companion for you, come along, here’s your bus,” and he hailed one.  She never forgot her saviour!

I was also intrigued by the school stories, of shoeless children being caned and other children proud of the thorough education they had been given by strict but fair teachers.  A good book to keep by the bedside for reading at odd moments.  And there are others; Lost Voices of the Royal Air Force and Forgotten Voices of the Great War.

You can find the books of Max Arthur at Amazon

The Wind Singer by William Nicholson #BookReview #YA

Wind Singer

William Nicholson was the playwright who wrote “Shadowlands” and “Gladiator” so it may surprise you to read that The Wind Singer is a children’s book (or at least young adults). It is a dystopian fantasy, centred on Kestrel and Bowman Hath, twin sister and brother who live in the city of Aramanth with their mother, father and baby sister. In Aramanth everyone is ranked and housed according to their success or otherwise in examinations. From the first toddler test to check whether a baby can identify colours and is out of nappies to the advanced tests for the father of the family.

The Hath family live in the Orange sector which we would identify as being for blue-collar workers although they are obviously intellectually superior but don’t toe the line. Kestrel is strong and independent and always protects her sensitive, fey, twin brother Bowman. The whole Hath family are closely tied by love and are torn apart by a mistake made by Kestrel. She and her brother realise that the city will only become whole and normal if they can find the missing part of the Wind-Singer a strange tower erected by another race thousands of years before. Their quest takes them on a long journey accompanied by Mumpo, a very simple boy who loves Kestrel. Their journey, bravery and adventures make up the rest of the story. It sounds predictable but it is a compelling read and this is both a complete story in its own right and part one of a trilogy with very different, more demanding events in the next two books.

I think this is essential reading for today’s constantly tested young people, especially the children of competitive parents, but it is also a very enjoyable read for any adult who enjoys a fantasy read.

The Wind Singer at Amazon UK

A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity by Trish Nicholson #BookReview

Bio of Story

Dedicated, “to all who love Story whoever you are,” this book encompasses storytelling since communication began and covers most corners of the globe.  Story is personified, weaving through History, influencing events, and what happens affects the nature of stories.

From early Creation stories of Africa and Australia, we move through legend, myth, saga and fable.  As words begin to be written down, words confer authority and as we all know, history is written by the victors.  Common themes of the wisdom of animals, of good versus evil, of disguise and mistaken identity recur but there are also specific features only present in one era.

Trish Nicholson gives us tantalising details of the lives of so many tellers of tales, but as she says, “Teasing out strands of the old storytellers’ lives is like following a thread through the Cretan labyrinth; the “Minotaur” we discover at the other end may turn out to be a goat rather than a bull.”  The lives of Chaucer and Boccaccio are compared and the similarities and differences in their work marked.  Similarly, she shows us how Sir Walter Scott and James Fennimore Cooper reflected their era and their environment in using the tales told by the indigenous people of their countries.

My favourite chapter tells us about Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, the talented sister of the King of France.  Her life was varied and eventful, surrounded by poets and writers. A politically astute woman, she was widely respected and a skilled mediator. She spent time translating parts of the New Testament and more relevantly, writing stories. When her collection of tales was published posthumously in 1558, some of her humorous stories were considered of an unsuitable bawdy nature for a woman so some were edited and credited to a man.

“A Biography of Story” is no boring book of literary criticism, since the author is herself a storyteller.  She narrates significant stories to her readers, highlighting the essential strands of each literary era so that the book can be dipped into, using the clear descriptive chapter summaries or the comprehensive index.  But perhaps, like me, you would rather start at the beginning and enjoy reading the entire delightful text.

A Last Thought from the Book

The story is our escort; without it we are blind

Chinua Achebe

 

A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is available at Amazon UK

 

Trish Nicholson

Trish Nicholson

I have scribbled in various forms since childhood. Twice I turned from the beginnings of a writing career to dive into something else: the first time to work overseas on rural aid and development projects; the second time, in 2000, when I emigrated to New Zealand. Writing has claimed me again and I’m not planning to go anywhere else this time.

My mother’s side of the family are Scots (Clarks and MacAndrews), and being born in the Isle of Man, and of Manx stock, makes me part Celtic and part Nordic. I believe my paternal family name, Taggart, is a Manx Gaelic term for ‘priest’ or ‘healer’; as most of my forbears were parsons, this seems fitting. Later, like lots of young people, I left the Island to seek tertiary education and never found my way back.

In 2017 I revisited the island for the first time in 30 years as part of a speaking/book tour with A Biography of Story. You can read about the trip and a bit of family history on the blog post: ‘Story Visits the Island of Stories’.

I have lived in many places in Britain: southeast England, East Anglia, Yorkshire, and the Highlands of Scotland where I lived and worked for 12 years. It is from Scotland that I went to work overseas; first in Papua New Guinea, then in the Philippines, where I completed also a doctoral degree in social anthropology. Research in Vietnam and Australia – on indigenous tourism – and many other trips, to South America and Africa, and especially unforgettable treks in Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal, brought me eventually back to England, and the decision to settle in New Zealand.

My home is in the ‘winterless’ Far North, where native trees grow even more in winter than summer because they have more moisture. No ‘off-season’ for garden work here – no splendid lacy icicles either, but I have photographs to remind me of those.