Murder once more on the streets of Victorian London

I’m reviewing another Victorian murder mystery today. It’s written in an entirely different style but is another 5 star book.


The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress by Amita Murray

The prologue of this Victorian mystery describes the bloody scene within a gentleman’s carriage on the streets of London through the eyes of his murderer but we must wait until the denouement of the story for all to be revealed.

We meet instead, seamstress Rachel Faraday, not surprisingly often mistaken for a whore, on her way to the house of a new client, Mrs March and her handsome, but annoying brother Harry Twyfold. It would seem to be the introduction to a conventional romance but it is not so simple. Rachel is compelled to investigating the murder which has occurred, to prevent injustice and free an innocent man.

Rachel is not only a seamstress, but also an artist who paints her own fabrics. She meets Dante Gabriel Rosetti who gives her lessons while she tries to resist his charms. Her life becomes complicated and at times unbearable and she puts herself in great danger by risking a tête-à-tête with the lecherous George Norland and then by following a suspect through the squalor of the Southwark lanes.

This unpredictable story sweeps us through Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions, Rosetti’s studio, Rachel’s lower middle class home shared with friends and the abject poverty among the wharves lining the Thames. Rachel has a complicated personality; an independent, artistic lady of 27 who at times is driven to despair. But when all seems impossible and she has risked all, there is a solution with the aid of loyal friends and a suggestion of future happiness and a further book.

This unusual book rewards any reader who enjoys a Victorian setting and its constant twists of plot increase the mystery of the murderer’s identity.

Diamonds and Dust by Carol Hedges


“Diamonds and Dust” plunges straight in to the murky night of Victorian London and a dastardly murder. The early descriptive paragraphs of the misty dark river and alleyways, written in the present tense, take you straight to the London of, “Bleak House,” and you are quickly caught up in the mystery and fear.

Eighteen year old Josephine King is left with the task of solving the murder of her recently discovered guardian and uncle in an inhospitable environment, summoning the strength of character she acquired from years living in an orphanage. Her unlikely allies are a brothel-keeper and a ragged crossing sweeper called Oi.

As the police make no progress, Josephine discovers that the murder may be connected to a collection of valuable jewels. There are incredible headlines in the newspapers of, “A Fearful monstrous Hound striking terror,” and no-one feels safe on the streets at night.

While Josephine puts herself at risk, striving to discover the murderer, Isabella Thorpe, a tragic acquaintance, fights to maintain her sanity, destined to be given in marriage to a depraved bully.

Every scene is filled with period detail, painting a picture of the surroundings without detracting from the fast-moving plot. In one delightful vignette Josephine even meets Charles Dickens though she is not impressed by him!

The characters, such as Pennyworth Candy and Trafalgar Moggs, have such perfect names and in this moral tale all receive their just deserts as the result of two determined women, even if the police take all the credit.

Read my Review of Carol’s follow up novel Honour and Obey here

Gotta Find a Home

From whatever country we come, we are used to seeing homeless people in our cities begging. It is easy to be judgemental, frightened or indifferent but we often forget that they are human beings. Dennis Cardiff is not like that. He makes daily visits to a group of homeless people in his Canadian city to talk to them and maybe buy them a snack. For several years he has kept a journal of these encounters on his blog “Gotta Find a Home” and this book is an edited version of this.

I was hoping for a compilation of the conversations with a particular character building up a coherent biography of people like Joy, who slept behind a dumpster and was often beaten up or of Antonio, the small gentle man who slept on a bench in the freezing cold but Dennis Cardiff has stuck to a simple recount of each conversation as it occurred.

The “usual subjects” as Dennis calls his friends on the streets do gradually stamp out their identity in these conversations and we learn some of their back story but perhaps because this is real life and Dennis is determined not to interfere there is no clear timeline of their life events to explain their current predicament.

In an interview at the end of the book Dennis concludes that although many suffer from mental and physical illness and a great many were abused when younger there is no one reason why they are homeless. He does not offer a solution to the problem, but following Buddhist principals to, “open one’s heart and practice generosity,” he gives his time and a listening ear to them.

This book is not an easy read but it does help to increase our understanding by its honest and frank account of the lives of this group of homeless people.
Rosie's Book Review team 1

Four contrasting books by Terry Tyler, Jan Ruth, N A Granger and Steve Bridger

Round and Round by Terry Tyler

     Rosie's Book Review team 1Round

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if you had done things differently, taken that job abroad, studied harder or married your first love?  Well in Terry Tyler’s new novella, “Round and Round,” heroine Sophie does just that.  As she approaches her dreaded 40th birthday she looks back sixteen years and wonders whether she made the right choices.

I warmed to Sophie very quickly.  She is trying to make the best of her life but indecision in the past and the loss of her greatly loved Aunt Flick cause her to question her way of life.  Looking back to 1998 when she had lost weight and made advances in her career, it seemed as though she would have a golden future but there were four men in her life and she couldn’t choose between them.

But this is not a lightweight romance.  The story is set in the modern world, with concerns about career, home and family.  Sophie’s mother Alana is an embittered, abandoned woman who wants her daughter to settle down with a reliable man.  In contrast Flick is a woman of the 1960s who talks about karma and auras.  She takes Sophie to the Angel tree, a special place where all cares disappear and life seems clearer.

The four suitors; cheerful, affectionate Chris, handsome, artistic Seb, carefree Kieran and Neil, the friend who shares her interest in the theatre, are believable, well-drawn characters who gradually change over time as their lives progress.  Sophie is not naturally promiscuous, she is aware that each of them offer her the possibility of a happy, fulfilling future and she doesn’t want to hurt any of them; or herself.

What makes this book different is the way in which alternative life paths are shown.  It raises the question, are we entirely responsible for the way our life turns out?  And if things go wrong can we do something about it?  Of course a little bit of magic or help from a guardian angel is always useful.

Wild Water by Jan Ruth


Writing contemporary family drama is probably the most difficult genre in which to achieve success, so it was a pleasure to find myself instantly immersed in the ever increasing disasters of Jack, the unlikely hero of “Wild Water.”  Successful estate agents from the wealthiest part of Cheshire don’t come to mind as empathetic characters, but Jack works hard, cares about his family and has sufficient stress to justify his intermittent smoking habit. His faithless wife Patsy, however, is difficult to like.  Her parental skills leave much to be desired and she always seems to be in search of better things.

And then the reader meets Anna, a quiet, artistic lady from Jack’s past who is trying to survive in an old, crumbling house in North Wales, by taking in guests.  Like Jack, she has a teenage son, but her life is also complicated.  She is warm, likeable and calm, in total contrast to workaholic, impulsive Jack. Their lives are entwined by Jack’s large complex family and ever more momentous events.

It is the strong characterisation which make “Wild Water” such an enjoyable read.  Jack’s children, his mother Isabel and especially his brother Danny are all given clearly identifiable personalities and the possibility of new stories to follow. Some of their names, such as Chelsey, are stereotypical and the break-up of a family is almost normal these days but the twists and turns of the plot combined with the emotional response this invoked kept me turning the pages avidly.

Combining the beautiful description of the Welsh countryside with a roller-coaster storyline makes “Wild Water,” an ideal holiday read and I can’t wait to read the follow up, “Dark Water.”

Death in a Red Canvas Chair by N A Granger


The eye catching title page of this murder mystery exactly reflects the prologue where the victim is deposited in full sight of a group of mother’s watching their sons’ soccer match, but the scene has been set specifically for Rhe Brewster, our heroine and narrator.  Rhe is a part-time emergency nurse, wife and mother whose stubborn, determined character make her an ideal investigator with a penchant for putting herself in danger, which adds to the drama.

Gradually, Rhe’s life growing up in the small Maine coastal town help her to unravel both the reason for the victim’s death and a conspiracy involving many significant people in the community.  The back story of communication problems within her marriage and valued relationships with others ensure that the reader will want to return to Rhe’s life in future mysteries.

Characterisation is well developed, especially in the case of Sam, the police chief and some, apparently minor characters, tease the reader.  Are they only a small part of the plot or will they prove to be part of the major criminal activity?

As a British reader I had trouble with some of the vocabulary.  I had to look up Mirandized (read your rights) and had no idea what a “red slicker” was but generally Ms Granger has a fluent, clear style of writing which advances the storyline while enabling us to understand Rhe’s feelings.  Some of the quotes she makes from literature and songs are unfortunately misquotes which are difficult to ignore, but Rhe’s original comments such as her, “peculiar sense of ownership of this crime,” enhance the narrative.

The balance of problem solving, “edge of seat” events and a heroine who is likeable and real, make this an enjoyable read and I shall certainly look forward to her next venture into the precarious world of crime.

One Degree North by Steve Bridger


Advertised as an action thriller, One Degree North lives up to its promise. Set on the island of Singapore in 1965 during Confrontation with Indonesia, it describes intrigue, explosions and fatal skirmishes involving Malay, Chinese, British and American nationals who are criminals, pirates, Secret Service and military men and women.

I have to confess personal interest in the location and timing of the book, since I arrived in Singapore as a teenager with my family in 1966 just as Confrontation was coming to an end. As Steve Bridger explains, General Sukarno, President of Indonesia, wanted to annexe the northern territories of the island of Borneo from Malaysia. Part of his campaign was to make attacks on the Malay peninsula and Singapore from bases in the many smaller islands just south of Singapore.

And yet Singapore was a thriving city, a mixture of Eastern and Western influences, where British Forces families relaxed happily by the pools or wandered about town, their children went to see the Rolling Stones in concert and visiting sailors enjoyed stimulating evenings in the bars and brothels of Bugis street.

Steve manages to convey the contrast between the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of pleasure and the undercurrent of secrets, collusion and terror. His characters are vibrant, lively and bold. A team of disparate fighters are established with the promise that they will return in a follow up. I recommend that you get to know them as I can see a film in the making.

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