Dead Man’s Chest: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne

In this episode of Phryne Fisher’s mysteries, set in 1920s Australia, she has decided to take her assistant Dot and her two adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, for a quiet seaside holiday in Queenscliff.  An acquaintance, Mr Thomas, has lent his substantial house to Miss Fisher, including his staff, Mr and Mrs Johnson, to take care of their domestic needs.  However, there is no sign of the couple, their furniture is missing and the back door is wide open.

 

Soon there are other mysteries to solve.  Who is the phantom pigtail stealer and why is Mrs Macmaster, who lives next door, with her son-in-law Dr Green, so nasty and so nosy?  As usual in these stories, there are many other characters participating in the plot.  Their other neighbour has two idle sons, with a particularly nasty friend, called Fraser, staying with them.  A film company is producing a silent movie on the beach and soon Phryne’s hopeless kitchen maid, Lily is starring in the film.

 

Kerry Greenwood spices her stories with rich description of the clothes worn by Phryne and Dot and of the delicious food they eat.  She also indulges herself with the pleasure of including aspects of 1920s life which she has researched.  On this occasion she describes a party at the house of Madame Sélary, where the local surrealist club act as one might expect or perhaps as you might not expect.

 

A delightful new addition to Phryne’s household is poor young lad, Tinker.   Hero worshipping Miss Fisher, he becomes a gem, assisted by stray dog, Gaston, in carrying out her orders and acting undercover to solve the mysteries in the style of Sexton Blake.

 

As always, this book is a pleasure to read and great escapism.

 

You can buy  Dead Man’s Chest on Amazon UK

My review of The Redoubtable Miss Fisher Mysteries is here

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Pleasing Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift #TuesdayBookBlog

Pepys

In a spine-chilling first chapter of this Restoration drama, we encounter Abigail Williams, aging actress, spy and mistress to Lord Brunkner. But on this occasion, she has murderous intent. In contrast the following chapter introduces 17-year-old Deb Willet, setting out for London a year after the Great Fire, to be a Lady’s maid and companion to Elisabeth, wife of Mr. Samuel Pepys. Her Aunt Beth, glad to be rid of her, tells Deb that she must, “Please Mr Pepys,” but she soon finds this applies in more ways than one.

An educated girl, Deborah is determined to work hard to make a future for herself and to finance an education for her sister, Hester. However, Elisabeth Pepys doesn’t seem to warm to her and soon her thoughts wander to her mother who went missing many years ago and may well be in London too. She seeks help from Abigail Williams, who has sought her out, but she soon finds herself entangled in a web of lies and subterfuge from which there seems to be no escape.

This is an era, of which I know little, but Deborah Swift’s knowledge and research have brought the murky streets of London, struggling to recover from the destruction of the fire, to life again. The suffering of the sailors, unpaid by the crown and their inevitable decision to rebel, is realistically described and I could not help liking Jeremiah Wells, the young curate, who wanted the best for everyone while struggling with his conscience. All this against the background of a Dutch spy ring and the incorrigible Samuel Pepys, who cannot resist a pretty face or an attractive ankle.

Although instantly appealing to anyone interested in English history, it is also a book for those who enjoy tension and thrilling scenes, especially as the main characters are women of courage. Highly recommended.

Pleasing Mr Pepys at Amazon UK  or at Amazon US

Michel and Henry Go to War by Avan Judd Stallard #bookreview #RBRT

Michel

Book Description

A Frenchman in the British Army fighting Germans on the Western Front? That’d be a bastard—the illegitimate son of the French President, forbidden by father to join the fray. Under an assumed name, Michel joins anyway. Except now he cannot escape the war that follows every step of the way as he and Henry—his comrade in arms—seek rest and recuperation in the mountains. Instead of wine and women, they find Germans and a secret plot to destroy France’s hub of munitions production. Cut off and outnumbered, they recruit a motley army comprising a women’s auxiliary and an old farmer with a big rifle and bad attitude. There’ll be no rest for these soldiers, not until Michel and Henry go to war. A cracking action–adventure story for fans of Flashman and The Guns of Navarone.

My Review

This first book of The French Bastard Series is set in France during the First World War.  We are plunged straight into the horror and detritus of trench warfare where Michel and Henry drop into, “a trench filled with a mix of blood, shit and dead men.”  Not content to die needlessly in no man’s land, Michel leads Henry into a dangerous attack on the German gunners.  As a result of their success they are granted R & R, which they choose to take in the mountains Michel knew from his youth.

Along the way we encounter other characters including Emile, a French soldier bound for the hell-hole of Verdun, Ernie a tall Australian truck driver whom everyone likes and Kranz, a German killing machine with a mission, who treats enemy warriors with respect.  Initially Michel and Henry spend their time drinking, fornicating and using foul language, but soon they are embroiled in more perilous adventures after a breakout by German prisoners of war.  Michel is always bold and courageous, Henry, a reluctant soldier but a faithful friend.  They move from one battle to another and the book is littered with carnage including intricate detail of the anatomical damage caused to bodies by each bullet or weapon.

Their final escapade runs in parallel to the completion of Franz’s mission and it is at this stage that the plot gains pace and excitement.  There is a satisfactory denouement to a tragic story.  If you want to read about the terror and inhumanity of World War One, described vividly and realistically then this is the book for you.  If you prefer your adventures to be more sanitised then look elsewhere.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift #TuesdayBookBlog #amreading

Divided

This is the story of two people, Elspet Leviston, responsible daughter of a lace dealer in Jacobean London and Zachary Deane, the illegitimate son of a poor Spanish woman whose bullying brothers have taught him to lie and steal.  When Elspet’s father suddenly brings Zachary into their household, usurping her position in the family business, she is horrified and as a dutiful daughter considers marriage to an apparently pleasant suitor.  Her relief when Zachary sets off on a grand tour is swiftly removed on her father’s sudden death and her world turns upside down when she hears the conditions of his will.

 

From the calm everyday life in London, where only the need to conceal their Catholic faith disturbs them, Elspet sets out across Europe to find Zachary and sort out her future.  Meanwhile, Zachary is discovering his true purpose in life, studying with Senor Alvarez, a Master of Fencing.  It is difficult to like Zachary at first but easy to understand him and as the plot develops so does his character.  Elspet also changes when she reaches Spain.  Her circumstances deteriorate and her way of life is completely different but the charismatic Senor Alvarez also guides her future.  And then she and Zachary find themselves caught up in the terrible expulsion of the Moriscos, the Moors who had settled in Seville.

 

Deborah Swift’s historical research is impeccable, grounding this unusual story in the troubled world of early 17th century Spain and questioning the role of women and the place of religion in society but this is not a learned tome.  It is an exciting, passionate story, full of vibrant, realistic characters and thrilling events.  I could not put this book down!

You can find A Divided Inheritance on AmazonUK

Swift

Deborah Swift

I live in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. I’m a bookaholic and I read widely – contemporary and classic fiction as well as historical novels.

In the past I used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so I enjoy the research aspect of creating historical fiction, something I loved doing as a scenographer. Each book takes about six months of research before I am ready to begin writing.

Wonders and Wickedness (The Victorian Detectives Book 5) by Carol Hedges

Wickedness

Here, you will indeed find Wonders in alchemy, seances, and on stage, but there is also Wickedness; murder, blackmail and deceit. It is 1864 and the railways have already caused a fatal accident. A brand new department store has opened but the window display contains an extra body which shocks everyone. Thankfully Detective Inspector Strife and Sergeant Cully are on hand, but they are diverted by a mysterious package delivered to the arrogant Lord Hugh Wynward and his unhappy wife Lady Meriel.

In a complex, ingenious plot several crimes are gradually solved as we meet a delicious selection of fantastic characters, from Felix Lightowler, who fancies himself as a contemporary alchemist, to Boris Finister, a Dickensian fat boy and Rancid Cretney, who constantly mans a neighbourhood watch irritating the police force considerably. Every detail of the characters’ names, clothing and vocabulary fit their context perfectly.

Within the plotline there is humour, pathos and a picture of the dire social consequences of Victorian values. When Stride goes to interview a builder he finds,
“Serried ranks of terraces of two up two down houses. Absent landlords will subdivide them into as many short-term lets as possible adding them to that surprising feature: the brand new suburban slum.
Mr Bellis struts with the aggressive bantam-cock attitude of all small men who’d like to be big men only nature hasn’t permitted it.”

As a connoisseur of all the previous Victorian Detective Books, I knew that I would enjoy meeting up with old friends at Scotland Yard and independent business women such as Lilith Marks and Josephine King but this book would be equally rewarding as a one off read, although it is bound to tempt you to indulge in other gems from the series. When will a producer take up these books for TV or movie?

Wonders & Wickedness can be found on AmazonUK

My review of Rack and Ruin is here

Everybody’s Somebody by Beryl Kingston #FridayReads #RBRT

Everybody's Some

In Beryl Kingston’s latest novel, we follow the life of Rosie Goodison, from the day she sets out to become a nursemaid at Arundel Castle, at the age of 12.  She is told that she is, “nobody of consequence,” but she is a strong independent girl of the early 20th century and she is determined to take on everything she can attain.  A few years later she finds a temporary job as housekeeper to two young toffs on holiday from Eton and when one of them gives her a reference to take to the RAC club in Pall Mall, she has no idea that his signature, Anthony Eden, will be of significance in the future.

 

On her afternoon off she meets Kitty, a young suffragette, whose brother Joe is a docker.  Soon Rosie meets them regularly, increasing her political understanding as well as enjoying trips to Music Halls.  Romance blossoms as war approaches and both Rosie’s brother, Tommy, and her sweetheart, Joe, become soldiers.  There is tragedy and there are life-changing consequences.

 

But we first meet Rosie in a painting in an art gallery many years later, so how did that happen?  While working at the RAC club, Rosie had made the acquaintance of a young artist who wished her to model for him and when she finds herself unemployed at a difficult time in her life, Rosie agrees.

 

This novel is a superb description of southern England from the turn of the century until 1939.  Through the lives of poor families in the countryside and in London, the struggle to succeed and even to survive, despite war, unemployment and hardship, is shown clearly.  Rosie’s warm, vibrant character makes each event human and I identified strongly with her hopes and wishes for her family.  She embodies the title, “Everybody’s Somebody.”

Everybody’s Somebody can be found on Amazon UK

beryl2

Beryl Kingston

 Rosie's Book Review team 1

Bamboo Heart by Ann Bennett #BookReview

B Heart

Bamboo Heart has been waiting on my Kindle for a little while. I loved Bamboo Island and I found Bamboo Road really moving but I was worried that this, the first book of the Bamboo Trilogy might be very upsetting. Indeed, the Prologue takes us straight to a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in 1943, where Tom Ellis has been incarcerated in a narrow individual earth lock-up. He keeps his spirits up by thinking of the girl he left in Penang.

The book moves on to London in 1986 where Laura Ellis, Tom’s daughter returns from Paris to see her father, who is sick. A successful city lawyer, she is dissatisfied with her life and worried about the actions of her boyfriend, Luke. Finding a photo of a young woman with oriental features, named Joy de Souza, Laura decides to travel to Thailand to learn more about her father’s wartime experiences and then on to Penang where he may have met Joy.

The book takes us back to pre-war London where Tom, also unhappy with his life, had decided to travel out east to manage workers on a rubber plantation. He becomes part of the expat community, but he also meets a local teacher who becomes very important to him. His easy-going life is suddenly changed by the approach of the Japanese, when he must become a soldier, but he becomes a captive in Singapore and is taken to the Death Railway.

The book reveals the suffering of so many soldiers and the repercussions in their lives post war. Laura’s experiences in Thailand and Penang are also life-changing but in a positive way. This is a challenging but fascinating story of the tragedy of war but hope for the future.

My interview about the Bamboo Trilogy is here  The book is available on Amazon UK