The Redoubtable Miss Fisher #amreading #BookReview #TVcrime

Miss-Fisher-s-Murder-mysteries

I have recently become a fan of the wonderful Miss Fisher mysteries on TV. Set in Melbourne during the 1920s, the programmes show beautiful architecture and clothes to die for. The plots are reminiscent of Miss Marple or Agatha Raisin so I decided it was time to read one of the many books about this incredible heroine.

Looking for a story I had not seen on television I chose Book 9, Raisins and Almonds.

Raisins & Almonds

Phryne Fisher is a wealthy single woman with a busy household including two adopted daughters, Ebony the cat, Molly the puppy and her staff. Elegantly dressed, at all times, Miss Fisher is a passionate, pleasure loving woman who strives for justice, using her intellect to solve crimes which defeat the police force. She takes in waifs and strays because she remembers poverty in her childhood and her wealth has not made her proud or snobbish.

This mystery centres on the busy Eastern Market, where the victim has been murdered with strychnine, in a book shop belonging to Miss Lee. Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, a less attractive character than he appears in the TV series, immediately arrests Miss Lee as the chief suspect, but Phryne’s help is enlisted by Miss Lee’s Jewish landlord, Mr Abrahams, to find the real culprit. Embarking on an intimate love affair with Mr Abraham’s beautiful young son, Miss Fisher also explores the Jewish community and the dabbling in alchemy by those studying the Kabbalah.

Aided by her reliable assistant, Dot, and handy Jacks of all trades, Bert and Cec, while being consulted unofficially by Inspector Robinson, Phryne makes progress but brings herself and those she loves into danger. The author has thoroughly researched ancient Jewish beliefs as well as the problems of living in an anti-Semitic society.

The author has a witty turn of phrase and has created delightful characters. This mystery is an easy read, with an imaginative plot and a novel setting.

Raisins and Almonds is available at Amazon UK

Kerry

Kerry Greenwood

Kerry Greenwood was born in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has a degree in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982, a day which she finds both soothing and significant.

Kerry has written twenty novels, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D’Arcy, is an award-winning children’s writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. In 1996 she published a book of essays on female murderers called Things She Loves: Why women Kill.

The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written thirteen books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them.

Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them.

For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window.

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd #BookReview

Pierced

The Pierced Heart continues the story of Lynn Shepherd’s flawed detective Charlie Maddox. Regretting his behaviour towards servant girl, Molly, he is haunted by her in his dreams which are not abated by a mission to Austria, where he finds himself in a strange castle deep in the Austrian countryside. As the plot progresses the actions of his host, Baron Von Reisenberg, take us to the Gothic world of Bram Stoker and Charlie begins to descend into madness.

For me this story came to life in Chapter 4, at the beginning of the journal of Lucy, in January 1851. Describing her travels in Paris and Vienna she is about to return to Whitby, a home she cannot remember. She recounts how she has assisted her father in deceiving audiences with phantasmagoria and how gradually her health has weakened. In the style of the books of Essie Fox and Wilkie Collins, Lucy’s plight worsens with each episode we read.

At times, the novel seems too gratuitous for me, but others will relish the descriptions of a series of violent murders of young women in London, 40 years before Jack the Ripper. This is an intense, captivating book to read and the ending, though not really a surprise, was very satisfying.

The Pierced Heart can be purchased on Amazon UK

The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival #amreading #FridayReads

Indelible

This is the second Esme Quentin Mystery by Wendy Percival and it takes us to a charming part of North Devon. Esme, an historical researcher, returns to Warren Quay where she spent family holidays, 30 years ago, but this time she has gone to assist Maddy, cataloguing the archives of children’s charity SAFE. But her visit takes a dramatic turn when she discovers a dying woman on the beach. Never one to avoid problems, Esme tries to help the woman’s daughter, Neave, discover, why her mother had travelled to Devon from Berkshire and whether there was a connection to the father Neave has never met.

As in the first Esme Quentin Mystery, the reader can discover many interesting aspects of social and genealogical research but there is also a gritty and frightening mystery story. Dramatic events play out against the background of the Mary Ann, a replica nineteenth century sailing ship which has been turned in to a floating museum about the fate of the convicts transported to Australia. Esme and Neave are drawn into a dangerous situation but Detective Sergeant Collins does not believe there is anything to worry about.

I would recommend this to lovers of murder mysteries, intrepid women and those with an interest in family history. I look forward to Esme’s next adventure and perhaps learning more about her previous life.

You can purchase The Indelible Stain at Amazon UK

Wendy

Wendy Percival was born in the West Midlands and grew up in rural Worcestershire. She moved to North Devon in the 1980s to start her teaching career.

An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompted her to start writing seriously and after winning a short story competition and having another story published she turned to full length fiction.

The time-honoured ‘box of old documents in the attic’ stirred her interest in genealogy and it was while researching her Shropshire roots that she was inspired to write the first Esme Quentin mystery, Blood-Tied.

Genealogy continues to intrigue her and its mysteries provide fodder for her family history blog (http://familyhistorysecrets.blogspot.com) as well as ideas for further novels.

Wendy’s website is http://www.wendypercival.co.uk

 

 

Oath Breaker by Shelley Wilson #bookreview #Fridayreads

Oath

It’s a while since I read a YA book although they used to be my first choice of genre.  I was a little unsure of the werewolf theme but the text of the first page enthralled me.

The blue flashing lights pulsed through the fractured front window, illuminating the blood splatter on the walls.  The click-click of the forensic team’s camera ate into the sterile silence as the officers combed through the living room.

Like something out of a macabre horror show the blood covered everything, coating the threadbare rug in front of the fireplace with its crimson wash.  The splintered remains of the coffee table littered the overturned chair, and the smell of death clung to the walls.

Mia finds herself orphaned after the violent death of her father and is surprised at the sudden appearance of Sebastian Roberts, saying he is her uncle.  A smart, arrogant man, resembling her cruel father, he whisks her away to Hood Academy, his private boarding school, and begins to seem kind and considerate.  But Mia longs to find her elder brother, Zak, who has disappeared after running away from their home.  She begins to encounter others who warn her to be careful who she trusts.

There is something reassuring about the boarding school setting, where Mia finds a reliable friend, Elizabeth and a caring teacher, Miss Ross.  There is even a school bully, Felicity, but in this school the danger is life-threatening.  The girls have been chosen to train as werewolf hunters and Mia is surprised to discover she has fighting skills.  But there are mysterious goings-on behind locked doors and she begins to wonder if the werewolves are all bad.

In addition to the mystery and daredevil adventure there is burgeoning romance and loyal friendship which make this novel heartening to read as well as thrilling.  I am now tempted to sample Shelley Wilson’s Guardian series.

You can buy Oath Breaker on Amazon UK  or on Amazon US

You can read my review of Shelley’s motivational book Vision Boards for Beginners here

shelley_wilson

Shelley Wilson

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Lover's Portrait

American Art History student Zelda Richardson loves her life in Amsterdam, but entrance into the Master’s course in Museum Studies depends on her performance as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. She is asked to work on an online project to restore 1500 paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two to their rightful owners or descendants but she is not welcomed onto the project by the stiff, unfriendly Huub Konijn, senior curator at the Jewish Historical Museum, who designed the website.

But not content with her editing role, Zelda uses her previous web design experience to brighten up the front page, with her own choice of paintings, in an animation. Despite Huub’s criticism, one of these paintings, Irises, triggers a claimant almost instantly. Rita Brouwer, a large, jolly American woman claims it was painted for her elderly sister, but as Zelda begins to warm to this lady, another claimant turns up. Karen O’Neil is an unpleasant socialite, accompanied by her German lawyer, Konrad Heider. She has paperwork listing the painting in the Gallery of her grandfather, Arjan van Heemsvliet.

In parallel with events in 2015, we read about how many valuable paintings belonging to Dutch Jews were hidden in 1942 by Arjan and his friend, picture framer, Philip Verbeet who was Rita’s father. But both men disappeared and the location of the paintings is still unknown. We know more than Zelda about whom she should trust but part of the mystery is concealed until the end and Zelda’s impetuous, proactive investigation leads her into danger and thrilling action.

The novel gives a detailed account of the large quantity of art that was stolen and how rightful ownership is carefully researched, which of necessity slows down the first part of the story, but there is also a compelling mystery which makes the rest of book a real page turner. Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.

I have since discovered that this is the second book about Zelda, so I am now looking forward to reading Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, Book one in the series.

The Lover’s Portrait can be purchased at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Dark Clouds over Nuala by Harriet Steel #RBRT #bookreview

Dark Clouds

It was a pleasure to return to mid-1930s colonial Ceylon and reconnect with the courteous Inspector Shanti de Silva and his amenable English wife, Jane. A painstaking detective, De Silva manages to balance polite acquiescence to his pompous superior, government agent, Archie Clutterbuck, with a determined pursuit of justice.

We join society in Nuala at an exciting time, when a young couple from Australia are visiting Lady Caroline Petrie en route to claiming an inheritance. Ralph Wynne Talbot is the long-lost heir of the Earl of Axford. He is almost too charming and his wife Helen is stunning. Soon there is a tragic death, but is it murder or suicide? Meanwhile Sergeant Prasanna is distracted by the mistreatment of a young lady called Kuveni. She and her family have fled to Nuala from their village due to ill treatment by the headman whom she had refused to marry. This is outside De Silva’s remit but he will try to find a solution since the girl’s plight is so important to his young Sergeant.

The plot of this second volume is faster moving than the first and this time Shanti de Silva puts himself in considerable danger. Alongside the drama Jane manages social problems with great diplomacy and tact, giving us a window into colonial life in this era. This combination of social history, exciting crime solving and a delightful loving couple make Dark Clouds over Nuala a great pleasure to read. I am sure there will be more mysteries for Inspector de Silva to solve, but I also have a desire to read about how he met and wooed Jane when she was the governess to a colonial family.

You might also like to read my review of Trouble in Nuala Volume one of the Inspector de Silva mysteries.

You can purchase Dark Clouds over Nuala at Amazon

Rosie's Book Review team 1

 

Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander #BookReview

Garden of stars

Garden of Stars is a beautifully written novel, set in London and Portugal. It tells the tale of Sarah Lacey, who returns to Portugal in 2010 wondering whether she will be able to discover the love she had lost 20 years earlier. She has been given a journal by her great aunt, Inês Bretão, who though born in the Alentejo, had married an Englishman in 1934. At first Sarah thinks that the life story of Inês is meant to guide her own actions but she begins to realise that there is a mystery to solve.

But Sarah’s story is also one of love and loss. There is passion and romance and also the quandary of modern family life, of too much work, not enough money and lack of communication. At home, her husband Hugo is looking after her beloved daughters Honor and Rose. In Portugal she has the chance of rediscovering Scott, her first love.

For me, the delight of this book is the description of places in Portugal, both in the 1930s and the 21st century. We visit a cork farm, a vineyard, Lisbon, Estoril and Porto. Both Inês and Sarah love the light, the beauty and the people of Portugal and when Sarah is reunited with Scott, he sums up his feelings in this way.

He had managed to get hold of tickets to see one of Portugal’s most famous fado singers, knowing that Sarah shared his love of this traditional music that sang of saudade, of nostalgia, loss and longing.
“Memories are what make us hurt – we all have our own saudade. My saudade is about you, what I shared with you and lost. When you left without telling me why, you stole my life and my soul.
This is fado. There are no happy endings.”

I found the journal of Inês rather strange. At first she writes in intimate detail, expressing feelings not written for an audience, she writes of things she would not want her husband to read but later she explains little of her life. Only towards the end of the book do we understand why she has given this book to Sarah. Sarah is an easier character to identify with, as she deals with everyday life we can recognise.  Scott said, “There are no happy endings.” I recommend that you read the book to discover whether he was right or wrong.

Garden of Stars is available on Amazon here