S is for Sally Lockhart #AtoZChallenge #MondayBlogs

Although I read the three books of Philip Pullmans’ “His Dark Materials” with great enjoyment, there is something about the Sally Lockhart mysteries which appealed to me more, and that is mainly Sally herself.

Ruby     Tiger

In the first book The Ruby in the Smoke, Sally is a pretty sixteen year old orphan. Her father has taught her military tactics, to ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol, but he has drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Finding herself alone but determinedly independent in Victorian London she sets out to discover the truth about her father’s death, but this involves the terrifying mystery of a bloodsoaked jewel. Although the story uses the ideas of a Victorian Penny-Dreadful, Sally is a sensible hard-working girl who believes the best of people and treats others kindly. In the following books, Sally matures into a successful business woman. She experiences romance, tragedy and the turbulent politics of the time. She is very much an underrated heroine in an unusual trilogy of young adult books, not for the faint-hearted.

North

Some other heroines I chose for my A to Z are perhaps more conventional:

Anne of Green Gables

Heidi

What Katy did

Maia in Journey to the River Sea

Pollyanna

 

 

 

 

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In Her Defence (A Bunch Courtney Investigation) by Jan Edwards #NewRelease #RBRT

in her defence

 “Bunch Courtney’s hopes for a quiet market-day lunch with her sister are shattered when a Dutch refugee dies a horribly painful death before their eyes. A few days later Bunch receives a letter from her old friend Cecile saying that her father, Professor Benoir, has been murdered in an eerily similar fashion.

Two deaths by poisoning in a single week. Is this a coincidence? Bunch does not believe that any more than Chief Inspector William Wright.

Set against a backdrop of escalating war and the massed internments of 1940, the pair are drawn together in a race to prevent the murderer from striking again.”

 

In Her Defence is the second investigation by Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector William Wright in the Sussex countryside. I haven’t read Winter Downs, the first book of this series but the reader is soon up to speed with Bunch’s back story. As a result of an accident, Bunch has had to leave the ATS and has taken over management of the Perringham House estate in her father’s absence.  She is aided by a team of Land Girls but since the main house has been requisitioned by the military, she shares the Dower House with her grandmother.

Bunch is happiest when riding her horse, but the constant paperwork required by the government makes estate management really onerous. Thank goodness Cecile, her old school friend from Switzerland, has come to help her with office work. But the death she witnesses at the market and the murder of Cecile’s father drive her back into detective mode despite the protests of the intriguing Chief Inspector Wright.  Bunch is a prickly, outspoken young woman who has rejected the amenable personality of Dodo, her sister.  There is an atmosphere of fear and unease engendered by rationing and the threat of invasion, while unpleasant attacks on locals with connections to Europe, increase the danger.  The mystery behind the murders is cleverly disentangled and it is fascinating to follow the activities of a small village close to the south coast in 1940.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good “Who dunnit,” and also to those interested in the social history of the war years.  I was a little confused in the first chapter by meeting several characters who used more than one name (Bunch is really Rose) so I would recommend reading Winter Downs first, but I intend to read that now since I really like Bunch’s character and the context of the mysteries.

In Her Defence on Amazon UK

jan edwards

Jan Edwards

Jan was born in Sussex, currently living in North Staffordshire. In addition to being a writer she is also a Reiki Master Teacher and Meditational Healer. Jan is available for interviews and appearances.

Jan’s blog page: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/

Passage from Nuala By Harriet Steel (The Inspector de Silva Mysteries Book 6) #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Passage

Inspector de Silva and Jane embark on a cruise to Egypt to visit the pyramids, excited at the prospect of two weeks of sun, sea and relaxation. With Nuala, and de Silva’s duties as a police officer, far behind them, what can possibly spoil their plans? Then a writer is found dead in his cabin, suffocated by newspaper thrust down his throat. Once again, de Silva must swing into action.

I always look forward to a new book about the investigations of Inspector de Silva and his English wife, Jane, but this time they have left their house and garden in Ceylon to take a holiday cruise to Egypt.  Having made the same voyage through the Suez canal in reverse back in the 1960s I was intrigued to read of their experiences.

The captive population of a ship at sea is ideal for a crime mystery and there are plenty of potential candidates for the murderer in this novel.  There are arrogant wealthy women, a mismatched pair recently engaged, an unhappily married couple, a flamboyant singer and a badly scarred vicar, all hiding secrets. Jane de Silva is a more active participant in this investigation, giving us a more intimate picture of her close relationship with her husband who is in great danger during the book’s thrilling conclusion.  This 6th volume could easily be read as a standalone or an introduction to this delightful mystery series.

Passage from Nuala on Amazon UK

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

The Chess Men (Lewis Chronicle 3) by Peter May #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

“The shadow of a massive rock rose up ahead of him, and he felt his way around it to the leeward side where he was briefly out of the wind. He pressed himself back against the sheer face of this giant slab and stood there gasping for breath. He had never in his life felt so small, or so vulnerable. The scale and scope of the land and the power of the elements, dwarfed him into insignificance.

He found himself shivering now with the cold, teeth chattering. To stop would be fatal. He had to find shelter. As he turned again to face the black uncertainty that lay ahead of him, the sky lit up in a series of lightning flashes that cast their ghostly effulgence across the valley that fell away beneath him. It was startling and bleak in this unforgiving light, a landscape so alien and primordial that it would not have been out of place on the moon.”

Chess Men

This final book of the Lewis Trilogy finds ex policeman, Finn MacLeod starting work as a security officer on a large estate on the Isle of Lewis.  Looking out for poachers seems an odd choice for him, especially as one of the poachers is his old friend, Whistler.  When he and Whistler discover a plane at the bottom of a drained loch the author takes us back to the disappearance of Roddy, star of a Celtic pop group, 17 years earlier.  Both Fin and Whistler were teenage friends of Roddy and the other members of the group and that time is returning to haunt them.

After reading the earlier books in the trilogy I thought I knew everything about Fin’s youth but suddenly we meet several more old friends and many life-changing experiences not mentioned before.  The technique of moving from present to past and back again seems overworked and slightly annoying in this book and revealing the lies and secrets is a very slow process.  There is however far more action especially in the last few chapters but I wished Fin and Marsaili would sit down to talk about their future.

As I have begun to expect from Peter May the descriptive passages are spell-binding and the characterisation of young Anna Bhaeg, Whistler’s estranged daughter, is superb. Crime and coming of age are intermingled in this story but like Inspector Gunn I feel frustrated by Fin.  There could be 4th book one day!

The Chess Men on Amazon UK

My Reviews of The Black House and The Lewis Man

The Lewis Man: Book Two of the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May #BookReview

Lewis Man

 

 AN INGENIOUS CRIME THRILLER ABOUT MEMORY AND MURDER.

 
A MAN WITH NO NAME
An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer.
A MAN WITH NO MEMORY
But this islander, Tormod Macdonald – now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child.

A MAN WITH NO CHOICE

When Tormod’s family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.

 

This second volume in the Lewis Chronicle can easily be read in isolation. We soon become well acquainted with Fin MacLeod who after personal tragedy has left his job as an Edinburgh police Inspector to return to his birthplace on the Isle of Lewis. Sleeping in a tent is not ideal in an inclement climate, but Fin intends to restore his old family home while building a relationship with the teenage son, Fionnlagh, whom he only discovered 9 months earlier. Meanwhile the local police have unearthed a “peat man” hidden in the bog which may not be as ancient as it appears.

What makes this story unique, is that we can enter the mind of Fionnlagh’s grandfather, Tormod MacDonald, as he rapidly descends into the fog of dementia. Thus, he is our unreliable witness to events many years earlier. He takes us into the realm of Catholic orphans in the 1940s and 50s. In a less formal way than the British Home Children sent to Canada and Australia, these boys and girls were labelled and put on ferries to the Hebrides where they would live and work for subsistence farmers.

Fin investigates Tormod’s background in an attempt to discover the link between him and the body in the peat bog. He travels south giving the reader superb descriptions of the scenery and geography of the islands and with a touch of serendipity makes the link, but in so doing he brings danger to his extended family. There is drama, pathos and a real understanding of complex family structures. Another superb book by Peter May.

The Lewis Man on Amazon UK

 

The Black House (Lewis Trilogy #1) by Peter May #FridayReads

blackhouse

I have recently discovered the delights of Tartan Noir and more specifically the mystery of unexplained deaths on the sparse vegetation of the windswept northern Isles.

In The Black House the preface shows us the body of an unpleasant murder victim hanging on the island of Lewis. DI Fin MacLeod is sent over from Edinburgh to liaise with the locals as he was brought up on Lewis, but there are reasons why he left the island as soon as he left school and some of his reunions bring back distressing memories.

While the present-day investigation continues in the 3rd person, Fin tells his own story from the past in alternate chapters.  There is a mystery to be solved which may link to a similar murder in Edinburgh, but the increasingly tortured Fin begins to realise that he is still part of the community and he must open up old wounds.

This is a beautifully written novel, with striking descriptive passages, of the beauty of Lewis in the sunshine, of the terrifying voyages out to the island of Ag Sgeir and the despair of young people who give up hope.  The description of the Guga hunters, men who risk danger to take gannet chicks from the rock once year, is not pleasant but is essential to the plot.

This exceptional book is a compelling read and I shall certainly be moving on to the sequel.

The Black House on Amazon UK

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.