Death of a Cuckoo: An Esme Quentin Short Read by Wendy Percival #BookReview #Mystery #AncestryHour

Death of a cuckoo

A letter. A photograph. A devastating truth.

When Gina Vincent receives a letter of condolence from a stranger following her mother’s death, a photograph slipped inside reveals a disturbing truth – everything she’s ever known is based on a lie. Shocked and disorientated, she engages genealogy detective Esme Quentin to help search for answers.

The trail leads to an isolated and abandoned property on the edge of Exmoor, once the home of a strict Victorian institution called The House of Mercy and its enigmatic founder, whose influence seems to linger still in the fabric of the derelict building.

As they dig deeper, Esme realises that the house itself hides a dark and chilling secret, one which must be exposed to unravel the mystery behind Gina’s past.

But someone is intent on keeping the secret hidden. Whatever it takes.

My Review

I really enjoyed the three books Wendy Percival has written about courageous genealogist, Esme Quentin, so I welcomed the chance to read this “short read” where we see Esme through the eyes of a young client, Gina Vincent. After the sudden death of her mother, Gina is sorting through her mail when she discovers shocking news about her own birth.  When an intruder attempts to search her mother’s documents, Gina seeks Esme’s help. The two women visit Gina’s birthplace, a remote empty property on Exmoor, and begin to research its past.

The story explores painful episodes from our recent past and I was on the edge of my seat as each woman risked danger. The family history investigation particularly interests me but there is plenty of mystery and adventure for the enjoyment of any reader.

In addition, I also read a free short read from Wendy’s website

https://www.wendypercival.co.uk/legacy-of-guilt-sign-up

Legacy of Guilt takes us back to the time when Esme returned to live in Shropshire and considered becoming a genealogical investigator.  Unexpectedly bumping into her long-lost cousin Joanna, she is determined to help restore her to her inheritance. Discovering a family connection to the sudden death of a young woman in 1835, the two women draw the attention of an unsavoury character who threatens them.  Another great read!

My review of The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival and The Malice of Angels

 

 

The Extraordinary Book of Doors by Anne E G Nydam #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Turn the page… Open the door… Enter the adventure…

book of books

 

When worrywart Chen Connelly finds a mysterious antique book beneath a park bench, his safe but lonely summer suddenly becomes exciting. Perhaps a little too exciting. A book of renaissance architectural designs may not seem very exciting, until Chen finds himself traveling through the pages of the magical book with Polly Goggin, the weirdest girl he’s ever met, as they race to solve a treasure hunt left by Benjamin Franklin, struggle to find their way through a maze of mysterious doors, and dodge far too many angry security guards. It doesn’t help that a murderous, strangely nondescript magician-thief is on their trail with a magic book of his own, willing to do whatever it takes to get his hands on Benjamin Franklin’s treasure and all three extraordinary books.It begins with a book. Where will it lead?

I discovered Anne Nydam during the A to Z Challenge. The theme for her blogs was traditional English language nursery rhymes, and their block printed illustrations. Discovering that we shared an interest in books and doors I had to read this delightful children’s book.

The heroes of this story are Chen Connolly, the adopted son of the curators of Cleveland museum of Art and Polly Goggin, the eccentric 13-year-old daughter of Miranda, owner of Goggin Antiques and Auctioneers. The two meet via the pages of copies of the sixteenth century book of doors. Each embossed leather book has a gold key on the spine which turns in the block printed doors on the pages. Once unlocked, Chen and Polly (and sometimes her cat, Uber) can pass through the doors into buildings spread about the globe. At first, they are unwilling companions but finding themselves threatened by Ammon Blank, a dangerous magician thief, they use their intelligence and bravery and the help of two others to stop Mr Blank’s robberies and to return the books to their rightful owners.

I was particularly interested in the connection made during the book to Benjamin Franklin. Not being American I knew very little about him, but I was prompted to briefly research his life which proved fascinating.  I would highly recommend this book to middle years young adults and people like me who love a good adventure story with a touch of magic.

Book2

The Extraordinary Book of Doors on Amazon UK

Anne E G Nydam

 Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be a writer…  I was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  I loved it there.  In college at Yale I majored in linguistics, with a thesis at the intersection between historical and sociolinguistics.  I loved Yale and I loved linguistics.  After graduation, for reasons relating more to the desperation of a school’s staffing needs than my qualifications, I got a job teaching middle school art.  I loved teaching.  (Are you noticing a theme here?  It continues.)  Teaching art was how I became, de facto, an artist myself.  Along the way I got married, and when our children were born I became a stay-at-home mother, and realized that since I could no longer call myself a teacher, I had better make sure I could still call myself an artist and a writer.  And here I am, calling myself an artist and a writer, despite being essentially self-taught, primarily self-published, and inclined to be self-effacing. My other hobbies include gardening, playing cello, quilt-making, and failing to do housework.  Except when feeling grouchy, I love it all… And she lived happily ever after.)

https://nydamprintsblackandwhite.blogspot.com/p/curious-about-my-art-books.html

Somerville’s War by Andrew Duncan #RBRT #BookReview

Thrilling wartime adventure and a sensitive story of relationships

Somerville's War

The strange brigadier who hardly speaks… Leo, his feisty pilot daughter… Labrador, the vengeful Pole… Henry Dunning-Green, Leo’s boring suitor… Adrian Russell, the treacherous master spy… … All linked by SOE Somerville, the top secret Second World War finishing school for spies on England’s south coast, and its local community: A melting pot of intrigue and counter-intrigue. A fast-unfolding, untold tale of deception, betrayal and romance leading to a tense life-or-death climax in occupied France. Many of the events actually took place. This is the first fictional treatment of life at the famous Special Operations Executive ‘finishing school’ for spies, SOE Beaulieu in the New Forest (renamed SOE Somerville). It’s also the first fully realised fictional portrait of master spy and traitor Kim Philby (renamed Adrian Russell) who lectured at SOE Beaulieu.

My Review

As a child I was fascinated by the tales my parents told of their time in the services in Europe during the war and moreover, stories about the Resistance or SOE have always interested me, so I opened this book with excitement.  Beginning in August 1940, we witness the last race of Somer River Sailing Club.  Through the eyes of trainee Polish spy “Labrador” we watch Leonora win the race and receive a kiss from her father, Brig, who is Captain of the club.  Soon we are immersed in the upper-class life of Somerville with its established pecking order of aristocrats who have known each other for most of their lives. Yet close by, young men are training for undercover action in France and Leo cannot wait to join the ATA where she will pilot planes from one British aerodrome to another, so that male pilots can take them into action.

But unknown to the local community “Brig”, the Brigadier, plays a major role in coordinating the training of undercover agents at Woodland house, hidden in the woods at Somerville. Soon, Henry, long-time friend of Leo, and her potential suitor, will also be trained alongside Labrador. The action will move to Normandy and the young men will be in great danger.

This is a study of the changes in everyday life brought about by wartime, but it is also a thrilling tale of heroism and a slow-burning love story.  Leo’s spontaneous character is easy to identify with, but I also began to understand the taciturn Brig who did his duty for his country and dearly loved his family. A beautifully written novel, revealing many fascinating details about flying Spitfires, conducting undercover warfare and dealing with betrayal in the best possible way.

I was given a copy of this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team in return for an unbiased review.

Somerville’s War can be found on Amazon UK

Wasteland (Operation Galton Book 2) by Terry Tyler #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

Wasteland

“Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society.  The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.”

The year: 2061. In the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make.  Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine.  One too many demerits?  Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is the ultimate megacity girl – tech-loving, hard-working, law-abiding and content – until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to ‘Hope’, the concluding book in the two-part Operation Galton series, and Terry Tyler’s twenty-first publication.

My Review

Rae could be any young woman we know, earning her living with a reasonable job, seeing friends in her free time and constantly using the latest mobile technology. Except that she is living in an alternative Britain in 2061. Her diet and fitness is constantly monitored by a “Nusens” chip fitted into her body, while she spends many hours using her Smartcom, often recording experiences on iSync to be streamed later! The megacity in which she lives provides a pleasant small flat and easy access to her place of work but that doesn’t mean that she can travel freely outside the city.

In the wasteland people do not have their every move watched by the government, but houses and villages have been destroyed and food is scarce. When Rae is given the opportunity to look for her missing family, she discovers just how hard it is to live with no heating or entertainment. Helped by Ace, a member of the Link organisation to reunite families, she travels through East Anglia and Yorkshire.

Meanwhile we read about Dylan, Rocky and Emma who live unhappily in a Hope village for the unemployed and homeless. They try to escape the criminal gang in the village aiming for a self-sufficient off-grid community. Can things get any worse for any of them? Yes, the final phase of Operation Galton to clear the Wasteland is about to commence.

There are some amazing twists in the plot which really caught me unawares and the range of characters; strong, empathetic, evil, selfish etc are important to the plot as well as fascinating to encounter. This is the follow up to “Hope” but can easily be read as a standalone and as a warning in the parallels it shares with the world we are in now.

Wasteland on Amazon UK

Terry

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Wasteland’, the sequel to ‘Hope’. She is currently working on ‘Safe Haven’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her Project Renova series. Proud to be independently published, she is also an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in all things post-apocalyptic, history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

The Memories we Bury by H A Leuschel #BookTour #BookReview

Memories we bury

An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.

In ‘The Memories We Bury’ the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

Lizzie Thomson seems to have everything. Having recently started her first job as a music teacher in Edinburgh she is thrilled to be moving into her lovely new home with her husband, Markus. But Lizzie hides the sadness of her upbringing which has caused her to feel inadequate.  Next door is Morag, a lonely widow who is estranged from her children.   In alternate chapters we read, in the first person, the innermost thoughts of each of these women.  But who is telling the truth?  Is Morag to blame for her angry daughter?  Is Lizzie being betrayed by her husband?

The whole story pivots on Lizzie’s unplanned pregnancy.  New husband, Markus is not ready to settle down to domesticity, but as Lizzie is an orphan, Morag is only too happy to step in as substitute Granny for new-born, Jamie.  As Lizzie’s close friends prove unreliable, she begins to rely on former midwife, Morag’s experience and help.  They become close, which Markus dislikes until Morag’s compliments convince him that she is a useful asset, dealing with his increasingly pathetic wife.

As both Lizzie and Morag gradually reveal to us the effect of bad parenting in their backgrounds, we see this reverberating in their present lives.  The worries of bringing up a first child are very familiar to any mother, but the complexity of Lizzie’s plight is gripping, compulsive reading.  Without revealing more of the plot, I highly recommend this psychological study of friendship and obsession.

The  Memories er Bury onAmazon UK

My review of My Sweet Friend  by H A Leuschel

Season of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Season of Second Chances is a heart-warming story of friendship, love and finding the inner strength to face a future that may bring back the past.

Seasons

This is a novel which captivates you from the first page. Grace and her two teenage children, Jack and Holly, have left Dublin to live in the quiet village on the coast of Cork where she grew up. Escaping an impossible life, she is taking over as a GP from her father, Des. She soon discovers her neighbours to be judgemental about “Young Doctor Sullivan” so she won’t be revealing the secret she has left in Dublin.  Prickly Jack knows they had to leave, but he doesn’t relish life in the middle of nowhere, while Holly has always lacked confidence. But things gradually improve. Grace impresses the locals with her skill as a doctor and her children begin to make friends.

This is both a heart-warming story and an edge of the seat drama as you wait for their past to catch up with them.  Adding a touch of romance in the form of an American author with a sad past and some amusing incidents with some of the local community make this a perfect lockdown escape. And I forgot to mention Benji the dog. I was so pleased to discover that there will be a sequel.

Season of Second Chances is available on Amazon UK

Aimee

Aimee Alexander is the pen name of best selling author Denise Deegan who writes contemporary family dramas about ordinary people who become extraordinary in crisis. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House and Hachette.

Aimee lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies. She has a Masters in Public Relations and has been a college lecturer, nurse, china restorer, pharmaceutical sales rep, public relations executive and entrepreneur.

Taken in Nuala (The Inspector de Silva Mysteries #8) By Harriet Steel #NewRelease #BookReview

Taken in Nuala

When an American millionaire and his glamorous daughter visit Nuala, the splendour they bring to the town’s high society is soon tragically tarnished by a vicious crime.

With many avenues of inquiry to follow, including the involvement of a mysterious fortune teller, Inspector de Silva will need all his resources to unravel the evidence and avert further disaster.

A gripping mystery with lots of twists and turns set in the colourful and fascinating world of 1930s Ceylon.

My Review

There is a slight air of menace in this volume of the investigations of Inspector Shanti de Silva in the delightful hill town of Nuala. There are still sophisticated gatherings at the sumptuous home of Assistant Governor Archie Clutterbuck and his wife Florence, but the talk is of a gathering storm in Britain, hoping for “Peace in our time.” However, people are excited to meet wealthy world travellers Walter and Grace Tankerton and their sullen daughter Phoebe. Even more interesting is the American millionaire, Hank O’Halloran and his vivacious daughter Marie. Such conspicuous wealth attracts unwelcome attention, so Tankerton has employed an ex-military man, Patterson to guard his daughter, Phoebe.

Soon an audacious kidnapping occurs and while Shanti and his men investigate, an unpopular local man is found dead. Is there a link to a clairvoyant visited by Phoebe and Marie?  The police spend long hours watching for the kidnappers and begin to suspect one of the staff employed by Tankerton or O’Halloran. Meanwhile there seems to be a mysterious animal skulking in Shanti’s garden.

The plot of this mystery is complex and puzzling, set against the happy married life of Shanti and his English wife, Jane in the idyllic pre-war setting of Ceylon under British Colonial rule. I always enjoy these detective stories, but this volume is particularly engaging.

Taken In Nuala on Amazon UK

My review of Trouble in Nuala the first book in this series

The Vermeer Deception : An Art Mystery (Zelda Richardson Mystery Series Book 4) by Jennifer S Alderson #BookReview

An art historian finds – then loses – a portrait by Johannes Vermeer in this thrilling art mystery set in Munich, Heidelberg, and Amsterdam.

Vermeer

Zelda is finding her job as assistant to Art Investigator Vincent de Graaf rather boring, but while Vincent is in Croatia, she finds a clue to a Vermeer painting, stolen by the Nazis during the war. However, she must devote her time to her parents who have finally flown over from the States to visit her in Amsterdam. After a week, the family travel to Munich with Zoe’s boyfriend, Jacob, for more sightseeing. Finding herself in the street where she believes the missing painting might be, she can’t resist calling in. Here she meets Kurt Weber, the son of a wartime looter, now intending to return some of the paintings before he dies of terminal cancer.  But he is part of a network of descendants of the original Mühlmann Network and the other members have no intention of allowing him to betray them.

Zelda is stuck between the increasing anger of her mother and the evil intent of art dealers Max and Brigitte. When Kurt is found dead and there is no sign of the Vermeer painting, neither Vincent nor the police will believe there has been foul play.

The story gives us a guided tour of the Windmills of Zaanse Schans, the city of Munich and the castle in Heidelberg. The story behind the plot is based in truth and we can understand why Zelda is so anxious to solve the mystery. Bravely venturing into danger causes a rift between Zelda and her boyfriend but we are rooting for her success.  I was surprised by events in the final chapter and hope more will be revealed in a subsequent volume of Zelda’s adventures.

The Vermeer Deception is available on Amazon UK

My review of Marked for Revenge the previous Zelda Richardson Mystery

The Sterling Affair (The Forensic Genealogist Book 8) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Sterling Affair

When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother. Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state. Meanwhile, Morton is faced with his own alarmingly close DNA match which itself comes with far-reaching implications for the Farriers.

My Review

Morton Farrier is a lucky man. His occupation as a forensic genealogist allows him to do what he loves best, research family history. His skills and experience make him very successful and like a terrier he doesn’t give up easily. I have enjoyed previous novels in this series, but this is the most compelling tale, of Morris Duggan, a man who had adopted a false identity.  Perhaps his reason for this was a link with MI6 but will the redacted files Morton seeks out, give any useful information. Alongside Morton’s investigation, we move back in time to Duggan’s life in the Middle East during the 1950s Suez crisis.

The thrilling tale of Duggan’s escapades in Beirut, Egypt and London are convincingly described while the careful examination of evidence in Family Record Offices and online, ring true.  I was also intrigued by Morton’s personal discovery of an extremely close DNA match on Ancestry which cause him to wish he had never embarked along this route.

Another delightful thread within the book is Morton’s family life with his wife Juliet, a police officer, and their daughter, little Grace, always into mischief but loving to play Peppa Pig with her daddy. A pleasant relief from some of the more dangerous escapades within the book. The final chapter, set in 1944, links the characters in a satisfying conclusion.

The Sterling Affair can be found on Amazon UK

My Review of  The Lost Ancestor Book 2 of this series

 

The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith #TuesdayBookBlog #Humour

Peppermint tea

 

It is summer in Scotland Street (as it always is) and for the habitués of Edinburgh’s favourite street some extraordinary adventures lie in waiting.

For the impossibly vain Bruce Anderson – he of the clove-scented hair gel – it may finally be time to settle down, and surely it can only be a question of picking the lucky winner from the hordes of his admirers. The Duke of Johannesburg is keen to take his flight of fancy, a microlite seaplane, from the drawing board to the skies. Big Lou is delighted to discover that her young foster son has a surprising gift for dance but she is faced with big decisions to make on his and her futures. And with Irene now away to pursue her research in Aberdeen, her husband, Stuart, and infinitely long-suffering son, Bertie, are free to play. Stuart rekindles an old friendship over peppermint tea whilst Bertie and his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson get more they bargained for from their trip to the circus. And that’s just the beginning . . .

Reading this book was a welcome return to the characters of Scotland Street, Edinburgh.  All ages and all sorts of characters are represented. Problems are solved and worries assuaged, usually by the kindness of others.  Like the other books in the series, there are interesting philosophical discussions and relationships develop.

My favourite characters are 7 year Bertie Pollock, his simple friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson and their helpful adult comrade Angus Lordie with his cheerful dog Cyril.  The book is sprinkled with humour, be it the vanity of handsome Estate Agent, Bruce, making a fool of himself when he tries to show off his knowledge (or lack of it) about whisky to the owner of a distillery; or an account of the Scotch Pie company once called Pies for Protestants, then Inclusive Pies and now with the surge of nationalism, named Pure Dead Brilliant Scotch Pies (Nae Messing).

By the conclusion of the novel young Pat has found a new, rather young, boyfriend, Bertie’s father has found romance and Matthew has found a way to cheer his lonely wife who struggles with triplets Rognvald, Fergus and Tobermory.  For a feel good, thought provoking read you cannot beat the wit of Alexander McCall Smith.