The Figurehead by Bill Kirton #FridayReads #BookReview


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



#amreading The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman #FridayReads

“He smiled at Bradamant dazzlingly.  Irene felt a little of the overspill of it, the burning surge of slavish desire and passionate adoration, and felt the brand across her back burn like raw ice in reaction.  She also felt a quick burst of relief that apparently Silver hadn’t recognised her as a Library agent.  She was still incognito for the moment.”

Invisible Library

My current read is tremendous fun, a steampunk romp through an alternative world with Irene, a strong-minded, intelligent Librarian solving a crime while on a mission to take a precious Fairy Tale book back to the Invisible Library.  While mentoring a handsome, but troubling assistant she finds she also has to deal with her bitterest personal enemy and a dangerous foe who is trying to kill her.  It is a fascinating novel, filled with humour, danger, adventure and mystery -all the right ingredients.  And there are three more books to follow!


Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.

An Interview with Lachlan Greig from “Rack and Ruin” by Carol Hedges

Rack &

“Greig is an imposing man, thirty years old and well above the regulation five foot seven inches. He is handsome, with a clear complexion, broad shoulders, bright chestnut hair and a certain glint in his eye. Life had taught him, sadly, that being gifted with a high degree of intelligence didn’t always play out well with those of his colleagues, and those of the criminal fraternity, who were not equally gifted.”

Inspector Greig, I have admired your tenacity and upright bearing as an officer of the law. I can tell from your accent that you are not a Londoner by birth. What made you join the metropolitan police?

Good day, Mistress Lloyd, and may I say your name reminds me of my own country, Bonnie Scotland. You are right, I am a long way from home, and there is a reason for that state of affairs. I joined the police force at the age of eighteen, but this was the Edinburgh force, and it was there I learned my training, much as my colleagues in Scotland Yard, by pounding the streets, and arresting the thieves and villains that frequent them. Of which there were many, I can assure you.

The reason I came south, to this strange city that seems to have no end to it, was because of a young women. Her name was Mary, and I met her at the house of a family friend. She was seventeen, and as sweet as the red red rose that our great Scottish poet Robert Burns writes about, but her father did not want her to marry a poor constable, and she respected his opinion too much to go against his wishes. So we argued and debated and I pleaded my case, but in the end, she chose a rich young man over me and for pride, I left my father’s house and came down to this smoky city, for I could not bear to see her sweet face or be close to her again.

I hear from my dear sister Jeanie that the match is not a happy one, for he drinks and spends long hours at the tables, but she has made her choice, and so have I, and we will not meet again upon this earth, I think.

Do you miss your family and friends?

I miss my father, who picked me out of the gutter when I was an abandoned bairn, and took me to his house. He brought me up as his own child, schooled me and has always supported me in all I wanted to do. Sadly, he died a year ago, of the fever, which he caught from some cloth that came over from the Americas ~ perhaps you have heard the story? Many importers and merchants died, for the cloth was all infected with the smallpox. He is buried in Greyfriars kirkyard, with a white angel over his tomb. He was a good man, and without him, I would surely have perished in the street, for my own mother abandoned me.

My sister Jeanie and her bairns are my only family now. I am ‘Uncle Lackie’ to the little ones, and send them toys and sweetmeats whenever I can. I hope this year to visit them for the Christmas festivities, if our superintendent will give me leave..

Will you return to Scotland in the future?

When I first arrived in London, my whole intention was to go home as soon as my heart had healed ~ for London was like some heathen wilderness to me: I didn’t understand its ways, nor how the inhabitants spoke, for their accents were strange and I confess, I was very lonely for quite a while. But now I have joined the detective division, and have found a friend in Jack Cully, and have been welcomed into his home by his wife Emily, I think I shall stay here. There is a lassie that I like ~ her name is … but maybe it would not be right to tell you her name, as we are not yet courting, but I intend to broach the matter with her as soon as this new investigation is over.

Reports of your bravery or perhaps foolhardy behaviour in stopping a moving omnibus have been printed in the newspapers. What made you act in that manner?

You are referring to the newspaper report in the Telegraph? I was merely carrying out my duty, which was to stop a woman taking a baby from its mother. You must know that there are many such women in this city who, for a fixed amount, will remove a child and dispose of it. My friend Jack Cully’s brave wife Emily was acting as a decoy to lure this evil woman into the open. Had I not stopped the omnibus, her own child could have been taken. The cut on my head and the broken collarbone are healing nicely and I do not think my actions justified the ‘Hero of the Hour’ headline!

Do you have ambitions for further progress in the Metropolitan police force or any other plans?

I have now moved from Bow Street to Scotland Yard, where I am a working detective. It is an increase in salary, which is most welcome and I hope soon to rise to the rank of Detective Inspector. My current case concerns banking fraud and gambling on a grand scale. You have maybe heard of the runs on several city banks who have defaulted on their loans? There is more to it than meets the eye, and DI Stride and I are looking into who is behind it. I hope we will be able to tell you the tale later in the year.

I am very much looking forward to reading about your current investigations.  Thank you for giving us your time today.

Rack and Ruin can be purchased at Amazon UK

And here you may read a review of Rack and Ruin



The Teacher by Emily Organ #BookReview

Emily Organ

I recently discovered the books of Emily Organ via Twitter.  As Emily says,

“Writing historical mysteries combines my love of history and mystery and also another love: writing. I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.”

As a taster I can recommend the short mystery novella “The Teacher” currently free on Amazon UK even without Prime.  It introduces Penny Green, a Fleet Street journalist during the reign of Queen Victoria.  In this story she investigates the tragic death of teacher, Miss Jane, at a girls’ school in Dulwich.  A brave, forthright young woman, she suspects foul play and does her best to solve the mystery.

For lovers of Agatha Christie or period drama this is a good read and has tempted me towards other longer stories about Penny Green.

The Teacher


The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady #FridayReads #BookReview

Woman at the light

One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children, and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly illegal. But Andrew proves himself an enormous help and soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family. And, far from the outside world and society’s rules, his place in Emily’s life is as steadfast now as the light, and will forever change their futures. When Emily’s family is ripped apart once again, she faces untold hardships that test her love and determination and show how the passionate love of a defiant, determined woman can overcome any obstacle.

My Review

A lighthouse is of such significance both as a life-saver and a symbol. On dangerous coasts in the 19th century their importance could not be over-rated, so it is astonishing to learn that in some cases, the vital task of igniting the light each evening was undertaken by women.  This story is based on one of those women who had responsibility for part of the wrecking coast of the Florida Keys.


Emily is determined to take on this responsibility, in the hope that her husband Martin will reappear.  Living alone on the fictional island of Wreckers’ Cay, 23 miles from Key West, Emily’s family have in many ways found their life idyllic and she has no wish to become dependent on her Gran.  The arrival of Andrew, still shackled as a slave, is a shock but also a blessing.  He becomes an important part of the children’s lives and gradually Emily begins to feel desire for him.  Such a situation in that place and time can only lead to tragedy and the approach of a terrible storm changes their lives forever.


Emily is a survivor, but she is also a spirited woman who makes her own way in the world, fighting for the best life for her children.  Her sister Dorothy seems a more relaxed, easy-going woman for whom life is easier, but we learn that she is more complex and plays a major role in Emily’s future.  The second part of this story takes back to Key West and later to Cuba and New York.  I found the interaction between Emily and the men she encountered, depending on her social standing, particularly interesting.  We might find it very hard to adapt to a man such as Pedro Salas, who combines charm and sexual demands, but Emily is a woman of her time.


What begins as a story of love and hardship, becomes an unfolding mystery story and family saga.  I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in 19th century American history and also as a story of passion and courage.

You can find The Woman at the Light at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US

Joanna Brady

Joanna Brady


Girl in the Castle by Lizzie Lamb #BookReview #Scotland #Highlands


Having discovered when I read Scotch on the Rocks what a talented writer Lizzie Lamb is, I was happy to begin reading about Dr Henriette Bruar, the Girl in the Castle.  Leaving behind a disastrous event at St Guthlac’s University, which has ruined her academic reputation, Henri is travelling to a remote Highland castle to catalogue and value the Laird’s books and begin writing her thesis on the Highland clearances.

But Henri is not welcomed.  Almost abandoned by the side of the loch in the gathering Autumn dusk by Lachlan, a small old retainer who wants no “wee lassie going over” to the castle, it appears that even Alice Dougal, the housekeeper wants her to leave the next day.  But the Laird, Sir Malcolm MacKenzie is hoping she will find valuable books to restore his dwindling funds and Henri is determined to prove her worth.  Unfortunately, she makes a bad impression on Keir, the handsome son and heir, who believes she is one of his father’s lady-friends.

As Henriette becomes accepted as part of the unhappy household, she begins to bring light into their sad lives, never recovered from a tragedy during Keir’s childhood.  But when she meets Ciorstaidh, Keir’s cousin, she is told in no uncertain terms that Keir is already promised to her.

But like Lizzie’s other books this is a complex story of magic, mystery and fascinating history.  An exciting team game of shinty is described in detail and on October 31st, the Celtic customs of Samhain are re-enacted.  The social repercussions of arranged marriages and debt and the need for an heir and a spare make fascinating reading, contrasting with the beliefs of a 21st century woman.

This convincing romance, beginning in conflict and distrust, is set in stunning scenery which comes to life through Henri’s experiences and Keir’s enthusiasm for his birthright.   A great read!

You can find Girl in the Castle on Amazon UK

and on Amazon US



Jonah by Carl Rackman #fridayreads #bookreview


When a U boat is spotted floating on the surface of the Atlantic in 1940 by a British destroyer, the remaining German crew accuse one of their shipmates of being a Jonah.  Why then, in the Pacific in 1945, do the same events seem to be recurring on US Navy destroyer Brownlee?


The protagonist of this novel, “Lucky” Mitch Kirkham is introduced to us as he and his crewmates are involved in a terrifying battle with a continuous attack by Japanese Kamikaze pilots.  For the second time in his naval career, Mitch survives while others are killed.  He finds himself an outcast, distrusted, disliked and mistreated by his immediate superior.  When his life is threatened he is befriended by Father McGready, who gives him some hope that he will return home safely, but soon many of the crew are showing symptoms of hysteria, seeing ghosts and talking of a sea-monster.  Mitch is a naturally curious individual, an interesting character to follow, but this leads him into more trouble.  He no longer knows whom he can trust or who will be acting strangely, next.


The author gradually reveals the back stories of Mitch and the other characters so that we understand their demons.  Battle scenes are vividly described and full of tension.  It is evident that Carl Rackman has thoroughly researched wartime life in the US navy and we can imagine ourselves on board the Brownlee.  As the plot develops, the reader feels an increasing fear of imminent disaster leading to an eventful, surprising conclusion.

Jonah is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US