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

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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/

 

Double Cheque by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Double

Like all good dramas, “Double Cheque” is about secrets and lies.  As in “Broken Cups,” Heather MacQuarrie’s previous book, the story describes families and young couples with happy lives which can so easily be destroyed by unfaithfulness or anger.

This story centres on Jasmine, a young woman moving into her first flat and her parents, Patty and Kenneth.  Jasmine is devastated to discover that her mother has been conducting an affair, unknown to her father and she enlists the help of her brother Sam.  Patty still loves her husband but cannot resist the excitement of weekends with Dougie.

Jasmine is happy to make new friends, Jillian, Bradley and Alasdair and one of these young men may bring love into her life.  Meanwhile she decides to help mutual friend, Grant to a reconciliation with his father, Cameron Ferguson, who ironically is a good friend of Patty’s lover Dougie.

As a reader it takes a while to get your head around the relationships in this character packed novel but soon you begin to care about their feelings and the predicaments in which they find themselves.  The unpleasantness and difficulties experienced by Alasdair as a result of brain damage from a childhood accident are dealt with sensitively and it is heartening to read of the support he receives from his close circle of friends.

There is also a suspicious death to be dealt with.  We know the perpetrator, but does he deserve our sympathy or approbation?  Will he be caught or betrayed?  This has all the elements of an exciting soap opera.

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

 

The Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Music of the Spheres

Book Blurb

London, the summer of 1795: a season of revolutionary fervour, scientific discovery and vicious murders. The British government is in disarray, unable to stem the flood of secrets to Paris; betrayals that doom her war efforts to failure. In rural Kensington a group of French emigr-s are pursuing a scientific dream, the discovery of a planet they call Selene. The group has fallen under the spell of a beautiful and amoral woman – Auguste de Montpellier who is at once their muse and dark angel. Meanwhile a killer lurks in the back streets of the capital: the victims are all prostitutes and have been paid in French Louis d’Or, the currency of France’s spies. Jonathan Absey is a Home Office clerk whose official task is to smash the French spy ring. Privately however, he has become obsessed with the murders. These interests intersect when he finds himself drawn into the Montpellier circle, yet his pursuit for truth remains obscured through coded letters, opium and conspiracy. Absey must uncover the mystery before the summer dies; an invasion fleet is being prepared to set sail across the channel and the lives of those on board now rest on his discoveries.

My Review

The end of the 18th century is a fascinating era, when French spies mixed with the aristocratic emigres in London, who had fled to save their heads. The city was a dangerous place for the underclass and Jonathan Absey becomes obsessed with solving the murders of several prostitutes because he believes his daughter was the first victim.

Suspicion falls upon the household of Auguste de Montpellier and her sick brother Guy. Aided by Doctor Raultier, Guy fights his illness to prove the existence of a new planet which he calls Selene, which he believes must exist after the discovery of Uranus by Herschel in 1781. Jonathan persuades his half-brother Alexander Wilmot, a gifted musician and amateur astronomer to make contact with the Montpelliers so that he can discover their secrets, but Alexander is unwilling to betray his new friends and walks into a perilous situation.

There is a gothic quality to this novel, several characters implying languorous evil and sexual deviance.  The historical content is sound, and the suspense increases with each new murder, but only Alexander earns our empathy and for this reason was the only character I could believe in.  Choose this novel for revelations about post-revolutionary Europe and an insight into scientific interests at that time but do not expect to become emotionally involved with people you meet within its pages.

The Music of the Spheres can be purchased on Amazon UK

E Redfern

Elizabeth Redfern

Elizabeth Redfern was born on October 29, 1950 in Cheshire, England and attended the University of Nottingham, where she earned a BA in English. She then earned a post graduate degree as a Chartered Librarian at Ealing College and a post-graduate certificate in teaching at the University of Derby.

Redfern trained and worked as a chartered librarian, first in London and then in Nottingham. She moved to Derbyshire with her husband, a solicitor. And after her daughter was born, Redfern re-trained as a teacher and began work as an adult education lecturer – main subject, English – with the Derbyshire County Council.

Since then, she’s been involved in various projects in nearby towns, including working with the unemployed and skills training in the workplace. She lives with her husband and her daughter, who attends a local school, in a village in the Derbyshire Peak District. In her spare time Redfern plays the violin with a local orchestra, the Chesterfield Symphony Orchestra.