Black As She’s Painted by William Savage #FridayReads #BookReview

An Ashmole Foxe Georgian Mystery

Black as she is

This is the fifth Ashmole Foxe Georgian mystery but only the second I have read.  William Savage is the authentic voice of Georgian Norfolk and the reader soon feels quite at home wandering the streets of Norwich with the finely dressed, eccentric, Ashmole Foxe. My personal fondness is for Dr Adam Bascom from Mr Savage’s other series, but I am beginning to warm to the wealthy, intelligent Mr Foxe. Although a womaniser who loves the best clothes and hates bad weather, he has a need to be busy and is well respected by the community for his ability to investigate crimes and bring the culprits to justice.

The story commences with a hideous murder, shortly after the mysterious departure of the victim’s husband, goldsmith and banker, Samuel Melanus.  The Mayor and important businessmen wish Foxe to discover the whereabouts of Melanus before rumour causes a run on the bank.  Aided by the group of street children who consider Foxe to be their friend, he is able to shadow the activities of the criminal underworld and find the connection between the murder and the strange behaviour of the goldsmith.

As usual, this is a slow process, intermixed with Foxe’s relationships with his friends, including Mistress Tabby, the Cunning Woman, and Captain Brock, newly returned from his honeymoon in Europe. A dalliance with Maria, a personal maid to the murder victim, is followed by an interesting new friendship with the intriguing Lady Cockerham. It was difficult to leave this intriguing, slower paced world and I am tempted to read earlier adventures in the life of Ashmole Foxe.

Black As She is Painted can be found on Amazon UK

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Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Telling Tales

Ten years after Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel, disturbing new evidence proving her innocence emerges in the East Yorkshire village of Elvet. Abigail’s killer is still at large.

For Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend – and of the fearful winter’s day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh inquiries, and the villagers are hauled back to a time they would rather forget. Tensions begin to mount, but are people afraid of the killer, or of their own guilty pasts?

Telling Tales is one of the “Vera” series by Ann Cleeves which I know so well from the TV series. In this novel, Inspector Vera Stanhope has been called away from her home county of Northumberland to reopen a murder case in a small Yorkshire village by the sea, east of Hull. But first the author takes us into the mind of Emma Bennett, who was 15 years old when she found her best friend, Abigail, lying dead. Now Emma is a dissatisfied mother with a baby, apparently happily married to James. But James has a secret and we are able to read his point of view too.

Vera is, as she is on TV, slightly annoying, but easy to talk to. She is not welcomed by the local police even though the two officers in charge of the original murder investigation have since left the force. Vera is persistent; she discovers that both officers still live locally and are involved with members of Emma and Abigail’s family. Michael Long, father of Jeanie, who was wrongly imprisoned for the murder, is determined to seek out the real killer, while Emma’s father, Robert Winter, who was Jeanie’s probation officer earns our suspicions.

This is a fascinating study of village gossip and hidden secrets, of powerful men and unhappy families. The brooding atmosphere of suspicion and boredom is effectively conveyed, and descriptions of the countryside clearly paint the bleak landscape. The mystery is full of false leads and I didn’t guess who was responsible ahead of the denouement. The TV programmes didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book and I will certainly seek out more books from this series.

Telling Tales can be purchased on Amazon UK

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.

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

Fear and Phantoms by Carol Hedges #NewRelease #RBRT #BookReview

Hedges CJ

I always look forward to another volume in Carol Hedges’ Victorian mystery series.  Once again, she has created an effective picture of the grime and poverty of 1860s London, filled with vivid characters, good, evil, peculiar and captivating.  In Fear & Phantoms, we face the very real horror of murder and fraud as well as a mysterious vision of the Madonna in the tunnel of the Metropolitan Underground railway.

An intelligent young woman, Helena Trigg, who works as a book-keeper, is baffled when her twin brother, Lambert, a senior bank clerk, disappears and comes under suspicion of fraud.  Luckily, she seeks help from reliable Detective Inspector Stride and kindly Inspector Greig, who wonder if there might be a connection to their current murder investigation. But nothing is that simple.  With wit and humour intermingled with suspense, Carol Hedges leads us through the parallel plot strands.

My favourite characters in this novel are the delightful journalist and author Lucy Landseer and the hard-working, irrepressible young cleaner, Pin.  Lucy is ahead of her time, determined to have a successful career, studying to improve her mind and certainly not intending to be dependent on a man. Pin is poor and downtrodden, but she takes care of “the boy, Muggly,” who has no-one else, and she will not tolerate unfairness or cruelty.  Both these young ladies participate actively in solving the mysteries.

There are so many delicious titbits to discover within this novel, such as names like the Hon. Tom Scallywagg MP and a creepy landlord called Mr Mutesius.  A must within a Victorian novel is a detailed description of the many exhibits in the taxidermists where we recoil in horror at the shelves, “of glass cases, full of birds and beasts in a variety of strange and unlikely poses,” but Pin loves to talk affectionately to “the tiny kittens in frilled bibs and tuckers… having a tea-party in their minute prison.”

This exciting tale can easily be read as a stand-alone or as an introduction to the wonderful series but those of you already familiar with thee Victorian murder mystery books will find all their expectations well-rewarded.

To buy Fear and Phantoms in the UK

To read my review of Diamonds & Dust, the first story about The Victorian Detectives

 

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves #BookReview

Raven Black

 

It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . .

The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man – loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when police insist on opening out the investigation a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine’s neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.

My Review

Raven Black is the first of Ann Cleeves “Shetland” novels. Having heard of Ann’s excellent reputation as a writer and long being a fan of “Vera” on TV, I finally managed to sit down and read this book.  And I’m so glad I did.  From the first suspenseful scene on a cold New Year’s Eve, to the last surprising denouement, I was hooked.  Yet there is no hurry to reveal the perpetrator of the murders on this remote island.  We gradually become acquainted with the harsh environment, the incestuous community where everyone knows each other’s business and the difficulty for young people growing up there.

If you have seen any of the television programmes you will find Jimmy Perez, the detective investigating the murder, a little different but still recognisably a quiet, thoughtful man.  His approach is in contrast to the usual stereotypical policeman and is nicely balanced against the hyperactive, determined Detective Taylor.  All the characters in this complex story are beautifully drawn and intensely human, fitting perfectly into a carefully plotted imaginative narrative.

In this book we learn a little about Jimmy’s youth and failed marriage but there is so much more yet to be revealed about his character, so I cannot wait to move on to the next investigation, especially as in September, the final “Shetland” novel, “Wild Fire” will be published.

Raven Black is available from Amazon UK

 

Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves

On 26 October 2017, Ann Cleeves was presented with the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association, the highest honour in British crime writing, at the CWA’s Dagger Awards ceremony in London.

Presenting Ann with her award, Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA, said: “It’s a lifetime achievement award, and above all it recognises excellence in writing. But it also recognises a significant contribution to the crime writing world. And nobody can deny that Ann Cleeves’ contribution has been magnificent.”

He went on to say that “You all know about the wonderful books, and you all know about the fantastically successful TV series. So, given that the recurring theme of this evening is friendship, I just want to say a few words about Ann the person,” and praised Ann for her kindness and generosity to others, and as a passionate advocate of the library service.

In 2006 Ann was the first winner of the Duncan Lawrie Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of the year, for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland series. In addition, she has been short listed for CWA Dagger Awards, once for the short story dagger, and twice for the Dagger in the Library award which is awarded not for an individual book but for an author’s entire body of work.

Ann says: “It’s a huge honour to be recognized by my peers, the crime-writers whose books, friendship and support I’ve enjoyed for more than thirty years. I am privileged to have had such a happy career and I will always be grateful for the support of booksellers and forever indebted to the passion and expertise of librarians, without whom I wouldn’t still be writing today.”

Fury (A Kate Redman Mystery) by Celina Grace #NewRelease #BookReview

Fury

Kate Redman has recently been promoted to Detective Inspector, but she has a new female boss who appears to be undermining her.  Still with the same friendly team at Abbeyford police station she is unsure of what she wants out of her relationship with Anderton.  Soon they are all too busy investigating two murders to be able to worry about their private lives.

Anxious to make her mark in her new role, Kate uses her intuition to find connections between the murders and soon she is travelling to the other end of the country in search of a suspect.  This is an excellent stand-alone murder mystery with very human characters involved in up-to-date predicaments, but it is particularly rewarding for previous readers of the Kate Redman Mysteries to see how she is maturing and assuming responsibility as a policewoman.

Other familiar characters deal with the responsibilities of parenthood and coping with life outside the police force and the blend of relationships and  crime make for a great read.

Fury is available on Amazon UK

Read my reviews of earlier novels in the series by Celina Grace:-

Imago  and  Siren

Celina Grace blogs on http://indieauthorschool.com/blog/