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

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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

 

Island in the East by Jenny Ashcroft #FridayReads #BookReview

Island in the East

This is a book of two stories 44 years apart, both telling of romance and tragedy on the island of Singapore.  In 1941, Ivy Harcourt, a brave young servicewoman, arriving in Singapore a year before the Japanese invasion, meets Kit, the love of her life, but she discovers that her grandmother Mae has been keeping a secret.  She too had lived on the island as a young woman, with her twin sister, Harriet, but what has happened to her sister since then?

 

The stories are gradually revealed in parallel, Mae’s predicament intensifying as danger approaches Ivy and Kit.  This is a thrilling and intriguing book with authentic characters such as Alma, Ivy’s lively American friend and Alex, a warm elderly gentleman who knew her grandmother so many years earlier.  It is difficult to put down as there are so many questions to be answered, unscrupulous characters harming our heroines and the Japanese occupation to be endured.

 

Having lived in Singapore during the 1960s I am fascinated by its history, especially during the second world war, but I was also impressed by the familiar feeling of the heat, the lush vegetation and the colonial style buildings described in the text.  A perfect setting for a mystery, a story of wartime heroism and two enduring romances.

Island in the East is available at Amazon UK

Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft is a British author of historical fiction. Having spent many years living, working and exploring in Australia and Asia – a time which gave her an enduring passion for stories set in exotic places – she is now based in Brighton where she lives with her family by the sea. She
has a degree in history, and has always been fascinated by the past – in particular the way that extraordinary events can transform the lives of normal people.

Her first book, Beneath a Burning Sky, was a 2017 kindle bestseller, and Island in the East is her second novel. She is currently working on her third, set in 1920s India.

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman #FridayReads #BookReview

Masked City

After reading The Invisible Library I was looking forward to this second volume of the series in which Library Agent, Irene Winters, faces another challenging mission in alternative worlds.  Her handsome apprentice, Kai has been kidnapped and taken to an alternative Venice ruled by the Fae, therefore rampant with chaos.

Unaided, she must rescue Kai, before the Dragons, lords of “order,” declare war with the Fae.  Setting out to find him before it is too late, Irene makes unlikely alliances with a group of followers of important Fae patrons, as they travel on an incredible train which can move between worlds.  Adopting a carnival mask and an all covering cloak she attempts to move around the dark alleys and gloomy canals of Venice, incognito, but she constantly finds herself in increasing danger from the evil Lord and Lady Guantes.

The city is described in rich detail, maintaining its reputation for murder and fear.  Irene is a bold, creative agent who uses her story telling powers to create narratives which bend reality to her purpose.  Her powers of using the Library Language to open locks and change the state of matter, help her in her task, but cause her pain and exhaustion.  This colourful story is full of vivid images of the iconic buildings in Venice and the sumptuous mythical train, which are a delight to read.   Although all the essential background story is given, you will gain most by reading Book One The Invisible Library first.

The Masked City is available at Amazon UK

More about Genevieve Cogman and The invisible Library

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan #FridayReads

Seahorse

An old house in an estate on the beautiful east coast of Ireland is a perfect setting for romance and mystery.  Mia Flannagan is summoned to Galty House by the sad news of the imminent death of Archie Fitzgerald, a celebrated Hollywood actor who took the place of a father for most of her troubled childhood.  During a rather distant relationship with her mother, stunning actress Fenella Flannagan, Mia was nurtured by Archie’s family and friends, but even they would never reveal the identity of her father.

 

Leaving the set of a disastrous film where she is in charge of the wardrobe, she is relieved to find Archie is in good form despite being weak and tiring easily.  He maintains a good relationship with his new neighbour, American hotel manager, Ross Power’ but Mia is more interested in a friendship with Pearl, the lonely, neglected niece.  Just as Mia was, she is an imaginative, talkative child and the two have adventures together visiting the mysterious island just off the coast.

 

As Archie declines, Mia’s life begins to fall apart. The film is abandoned and when she returns to London she finds her dastardly boyfriend/fiancé in the arms of another woman.  There is great humour in this scene and also in the way that the women of Galty House conspire to deal with the cad.  It seems inevitable that Mia will be drawn to Ross, but she discovers he too seems to be involved in sharp practice.  Thus, the revelation that the Fitzgerald family have kept a conspiracy of silence about her father can only make matters worse.

 

This is a tortuous tale of love, leading to passion and envy.  The characters have substance and strong personalities and there is a little bit of Irish magic in the conclusion.  Definitely a book that is difficult to put down.

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is available at Amazon UK or Amazon US

A Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; initially to entertain her sister Reta, who never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough audience. As soon as she could pick up a pen she started writing them down.

It was no surprise that Adrienne grew up to be a journalist, diving headfirst into her career after studying at the Dublin College of Journalism. These days she is recognised as a talented author and poet, having published The Heartfelt trilogy of acclaimed novels and an award-winning collection of short stories and poetry. Her fourth novel That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel was published in February 2018 by The Paris Press.

Adrienne lives in rural Leicestershire with her husband, two cocker spaniels and a rescue cat called Agatha Christie. She still harbours a burning ambition to be a ‘Bond girl’.

Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery by Jennifer S Alderson #NewRelease

Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 3

Rituals

Zelda Richardson is an adventurous heroine who loves to solve mysteries.  She needs to succeed in her placement as an intern at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam but the work involves Asmat Bis poles from Papua New Guinea, totems made for the spirits of the dead, whose evil looking faces seem to be leading her into danger.

 

Seven crates have been discovered unopened for 50 years in the archive depot of Rotterdam’s Wereldmuseum.  As Zelda and the more important staff from the museums observe, the crates are unpacked, revealing not just Bis poles, but also human remains of the head-hunting Asmat culture of what was then Dutch New Guinea.  But the most intriguing discovery is the leather-bound journal of Nicholas Mayfield, a wealthy American anthropologist who went missing in 1962.

 

Interspersed with Zelda’s transcription of the journal and her investigations, are passages from 1962, where we discover the frustrations and difficulties Nicholas had experienced while trading in Dutch New Guinea, hindered rather than helped by experienced Dutch anthropologist, Albert Schenk.  Albert is now Director of the Wereldmuseum and he seems to be a thoroughly unpleasant, arrogant individual.

 

Soon, Zelda is alarmed when two people close to her are murdered.  She continues with her task of transcribing the journal and researching the background of the Bis poles for an imminent exhibition, but she keeps information close to her chest and, at times, is unwise in those she chooses to trust.

 

This exciting story is also an education about a culture of which I knew very little.  The actions of colonial powers, the church and collectors of artifacts is called into questions but there is also our moral dilemma of whether to exhibit treasures from the past or return them to their source.  But don’t let this put you off; you will be on the edge of your seat wondering if Zelda will take one risk too many as well as wishing to discover what actually happened to Nicholas Mayfield.  A thoroughly good read.

An amazing picture of a Bis pole

Rituals of the Dead on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My review of Zelda’s first adventure Down and Out in Kathmandu

The Figurehead by Bill Kirton #FridayReads #BookReview

Figurehead

ABERDEEN, Scotland – 1840

Return to an age where sail was being challenged by steam, new continents were opening, and the world was full of opportunities for people to be as good—or as evil—as they chose. When the body of a local shipwright is found on the beach, neither the customers and suppliers he cheated nor the women he molested are surprised. But the mystery intrigues woodcarver John Grant, who determines to seek out the truth of the killing. His work and his investigations bring him into contact with William Anderson, a rich merchant—and his daughter Elizabeth. Commissioned to create a figurehead that combines the features of two women, John eventually uncovers a sordid tale of blackmail and death as, simultaneously, he struggles to resist the pangs of unexpected love.

Poor old Bessie Rennie found herself in great trouble as a result of stealing a watch from the dead body of Jimmie Crombie, the shipwright, on the Aberdeen beach. Had she murdered him, or did he drown? The local Watch are useless, but John Grant, figurehead maker and ship carver, is determined to find the murderer even if Jimmie deserved his fate.

William Anderson, wealthy ship owner and trader, had commissioned Crombie to build him a new ship, so he is concerned about completing the build, while his independently minded daughter, Helen, not a typical rich young lady of 1840, wants to help her father in his business as well as solve the murder. Inevitably, Helen and John Grant are drawn together as she models for the figurehead for her father’s ship and they begin to share their investigations.

Events slowly reveal which of Jimmie’s enemies might have wished him dead, as the author shows the comfortable gentrified life of the Anderson family contrasting with extreme poverty among the fisherman, thieves and prostitutes. While John is able to span the lives of both communities, Helen takes dangerous risks in seeking out the company of Jimmie’s widow, Jessie. The picture of 19th century Aberdeen is vivid and convincing, while John’s strong, calm personality is a good foil for the impetuous determination of Helen Anderson.

This is a story full of realistic characters, whom we grow to care for and a lifestyle full of passion and suffering. After an unpredictable twist, the mystery draws to a satisfactory, logical conclusion, but the relationship of Helen and John is still uncertain, leading us on to the following book. The well-researched background story of this busy port raises questions to be answered about the business practices of William Anderson and his provision of passages to the colonies so I look forward to reading “The Likeness.”

The Figurehead is available at Amazon UK