#ThrowbackThursday – The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman by Mamen Sanchez – 4*s #bookreview @simonschuster

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting  The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman by Mamen Sanchez – first reviewed in March 2015.

Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman

Atticus Craftsman never travels without a supply of Earl Grey and a favourite book. So when he is sent to shut down a failing literary magazine in Madrid, he packs both. A short Spanish jaunt later, he’ll be back in Kent, cup of tea and smoked-salmon sandwich in hand.

But the five ladies who run the magazine have other ideas. They’ll do anything to keep the jobs they love and their cosy office together. Even if it involves hoodwinking Atticus with flashing eyes, the ghosts of literature past and a winding journey into the heart of Andalucía.

With not the most efficient of detectives in hot pursuit, it’s only a matter of time before Atticus Craftsman either falls in love, disappears completely or – worst of all – runs out of Earl Grey.

Crime comedy, love story and literary adventure all at once, The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is fiendishly fun and delightfully different.

My Review

“Atticus Craftsman never travels without a supply of Earl Grey and his five favourite books – so he makes sure he has packed both after his father, distinguished publisher of Craftsman & Co., sends him to Madrid to shut down a failing literary magazine, Librarte …But there to block him at every turn are the five fiery and close knit Spanish women who run Librarte, and who’ll do anything to keep their jobs “

What they resolve to do is send Atticus on a wild goose chase while they attempt to improve the finances. In the meantime, his father appears in Madrid having heard nothing from his son in 3 months and instigating a police investigation into his disappearance.

This is a delight of a book. Quirky and fun, playing on the stereotypes of being Spanish and British to great effect. The ladies are a delight, they have a strong bond of friendship and a personal back story that brings them to life as characters. They all play to their strengths in trying to keep Librarte afloat as the magazine is close to their hearts and more than just a job. Inspector Manchego is a likeable if bumbling officer who is more often found drinking and playing cards than catching criminals. Atticus is a delight and unlike his father can see what the magazine means to Berta, Gabriela, Asuncion, Maria and Solea. Although the fact that he is bewitched by Solea may also help to make him more sympathetic. It certainly makes him follow her to Granada, without hesitation or question, to discover a family secret.

The search to find Atticus in Andalucia is at times farcical but also great fun. Once they do find him, they are surprised to see he has gone native – grown his hair, learnt to play the guitar and ingratiated himself into the heart of Solea’s family. The surprise is,  that the secret he ultimately uncovers is far greater than that he believed he was following.

This book has it all fun, friendship and of course love. As we are also dealing with a quintessential mystery focused on Andalucia we also have Lorca and Hemingway thrown in for good measure.

If you want a quirky entertaining fun read then this is a great read. Though as a Hispanophile I am possibly biased.

Advertisements

The wig has arrived

question mark

 

So Friday was my second chemo session and hopefully the day I was going to have the chance to choose my wig. Well the early start we envisaged for various reasons never materialised so it was straight to bloods on arrival. That set the theme for the day, as it followed the usual hunt the elusive vein scenario I’ve become used to. After two painful attempts they got what they needed, meanwhile my right arm was cheerfully displaying a lovely juicy set of veins. The problem is though once you’ve had lymph nodes removed the corresponding arm becomes redundant when it comes to injections, blood samples and even blood pressure tests for fear of infection and the onset of lymphoedema. This puts increased pressure on the remaining arm, so if your veins won’t play ball you’ve got problems.

Anyway bloods done, I headed off to pick up my anti-sickness pill ahead of the main event at 2pm. This meant we had time to grab some lunch, while I still felt like it. It also meant that after lunch I had the chance to visit the wig department we had an hour to kill before chemo (or 3 as it turned out).

So off we went. It turns out they don’t do a lot of short wigs so that reduced the choices, and then came the choice of colour. As the stylist could just about deduce from what was left of mine that it was dark, she was surprised when I said “I’d like blonde please”. She wasn’t sure, but I had been a bottle blonde about 20 years ago for several years so it wasn’t such a bizarre choice. Luckily she actually had one in that colour as someone had ordered one and not collected it, so I could actually try that one on without having to second guess exactly what the colour would look like. OH surprisingly liked it, and said it made me look younger – so result for both of us. However just to make sure we tried a couple more, the one with realistic roots was rejected – if I have to wear a wig I don’t want to look like somebody who can’t be arsed getting her roots done.  The next one was also rejected out of hand when OH said I looked like Deirdre Barlow.  So the first one it was, and after a few snips by the stylist to shorten the fringe so I could actually see – my new image was boxed and ready to come home.

So I guess you want to see it now? Well before that I felt that as this blog was supposed to reflect my experiences honestly, I should actually show a before and after. My last blog talked about my hair loss but I shied away from showing it which was probably a cop out. So not to elicit sympathy or pity, but to reflect the reality of hair loss, here’s the before:-

 

And now by the magic of monofibre filaments meet Molly in all her platinum gold glory

 

Still needs a bit of styling and I didn’t look my best today, but a vast improvement on the before as far as I’m concerned.

So I came home a happy bunny, despite a two hour delay for my chemo, with you’ve guessed it two more painful attempts to find a vein in my hand this time for the cannula. So it looks like I’ll soon be the owner of a newly installed Hickman Line in about two weeks. This of course comes with it’s inevitable list of of jolly possible problems – punctured lung, infections, septicemia, hey but at least I’ll have workable veins and can wave goodbye to the regular painful needlefests.

Hair Today … Gone Tomorrow

Angel_Hope

 

A quick catch up ahead of my second chemo due tomorrow. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of round two, unless anything particularly dramatic befalls me so I might be quiet for a while.

Following on from my previous post, things continued to progress well, barring the heartburn which has kicked in over the past 3 or 4 days. I’ve managed to work full-time, much to OH’s delight, and mine to be honest. Not only does it take my mind off things, but it also takes the pressure off our work schedule. I even had a day off yesterday for the annual charity shoe-box filling session. Each year my friend and I fill shoe-boxes which we donate to Link for Hope.  We managed to fill 20 family boxes and 8 elderly persons boxes, which is less that we usually do, but personal circumstances this year have hindered us both. But anything is better than nothing, and it always makes me remember that whatever life moans I may have, I have been exceedingly lucky by comparison to those who will be receiving our boxes.

However, I’ll admit to having a wobble this morning and letting things get the better of me. Last Friday I noticed the odd hair starting to come loose, nothing I wasn’t expecting and par for the course. The perceived wisdom is that 10-14 days after chemo you can start to expect the hair loss to start. I’d already started to feel my scalp starting to hurt as well. It’s a strange feeling which hurts more when it’s touched so it does make sleeping a bit uncomfortable. It feels not unlike the achy feeling you have when you’ve had long hair tied up tightly in a high pony tail, or had tight curlers in and take them out. The signs were there that hair loss was imminent. Over the weekend, there was a slight hair loss in the shower but nothing dramatic – until yesterday. There was a lot, so much that I couldn’t bear to remove it from the shower and had to get OH to do it – I think I was in denial. Despite the loss, and the fact that I could feel it was much thinner, it didn’t look too bad, no-one else would have been aware of my increasing hair loss. Today that changed. In the shower it was coming out by the handful and clearing it all from the plughole it looked like a dead rat languishing on the side – OH would need to be on removal duty again.  Worse was to come when I looked in the mirror, I now have exceedingly thin hair, with balding patches. It looked a complete mess and I’ll admit that for the first time in all of this shitty business, I burst into tears.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, I always knew it was coming and I thought I was OK with it. I am, on one level, OK with it, but seeing the evidence was just too much. If I’m honest I think it was less about the hair (it should hopefully all grow back) and more about the reality of the situation. Throughout this whole process it’s not been possible to see any discernible difference in my appearance. If you met me in the street, there’s nothing to indicate I’ve got cancer. Just like there was nothing to indicate I had it before discovering the lump (can’t call it Boris now – he’s gone from useless lump to being dangerously incompetent).  On the good days it was easy for me to pretend that everything was normal, even more so after the last week. I did feel normal, more normal than I’ve felt since this all started. The treatment felt do-able (well so far) and everything was positive. But now, I can’t hide, I can’t pretend. Anybody meeting me in the street now, can see instantly all is not well. Despite the fact, I’ve bought hats, bandana’s and hair coverings. Despite the fact I’ve practiced exotic turbans and fancy styles with my myriad scarves. The one thing that stands out is the absence of hair, no sneaky fringe peaking through that indicates you still possess some. No stray strands to give the illusion of choice rather than necessity.  The one thing it shouts is cancer and while I know I’ve got it, I don’t necessarily want everyone to know. That may seem a strange statement to make, given I’m regularly sharing all the gory details with the world, but the difference is I don’t have to see the reaction. I don’t have to see any hint of pity, or listen to the uncomfortable silence when people don’t know how to respond, or worse still some of the less than comforting comments that are made. One person helpfully told me, that their mother in law died of breast cancer – cheers, I really wanted to hear that.

While I still have some left to lose, it’s certainly reached the stage for a cover-up when leaving the house. Tomorrow it’s a midday start at The Christie, first for bloods and then my chemo, so we’re going in earlier to visit the wig department. I already have my voucher, gratefully received via The Christie charity –  as I’m not eligible for benefits, I’m not eligible for an NHS wig voucher.  As I understand it, the wig will need to be ordered, so I won’t be in a position to collect it until my next chemo – so you’ll have to wait to see if I dare to share.

#ThrowbackThursday – Silent Scream by Angela Marsons – 4*s #bookreview @WriteAngie

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting  Silent Scream by Angela Marsons – first reviewed in March 2015.

Silent Scream

Even the darkest secrets can’t stay buried forever…

Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult-sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood…

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

My Review

There has been a lot of hype about this book which described itself as “an edge of your seat serial killer thriller” having read it I’m pleased to say that for once the hype is merited and it is a great read. The fact that it is a debut novel makes the discovery even more exciting as hopefully it means more of the same to come.

From the opening scene of five figures gathered around a shallow grave, you know that the secret that binds them together will ultimately be their undoing. However what is impossible to guess is what actually happened and who is responsible for what appears to be retribution.

When human bones are uncovered at an old children’s home DI Kim Stone and her team soon realise that their search is not only one that goes back in time to ascertain who was responsible but this discovery is also intrinsically linked to a spate of current killings involving people who worked at the children’s home.

As the plot involves the abuse and murder of young girls, it was not always a comfortable read, but in fairness it was not overly graphic or voyeuristic. Perhaps it was made more uncomfortable because sadly in real life we are increasing encountering examples of abuse within children’s institutions and the abuse of young girls who the authorities don’t see as victims but as willing participants.

As well as a plot which kept me guessing literally until the end, I really liked the character of DI Stone. She was a no-nonsense, get it done and worry about the legalities after character which really worked for this story. She also had her own demons to face on this case, which also made her more determined to catch the killer. Despite her hard-nosed, direct approach, Kim Stone definitely had a heart and her feelings were reserved for those that needed care. There was a very believable relationship between her and her team and especially DS Bryant which helped to add balance to the book as it offered some humour and lightness.

This really was a thrilling read and I look forward to reading more.

Book haul – 4 weeks ended 5 Nov 2017

Thanks to time away from the PC, it’s been a while since I had time to catch up with my book hauling. Consequently when you’re scrolling through, just remember it does reflect 4 weeks worth 🙂

Review Copies

I have been so good in not requesting/accepting review copies but when I saw this on Netgalley, I succumbed. As it’s not actually published until April 2018 it also gives me plenty of time to read it.

Dear Mrs Bird

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine.

Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. Emmy finds herself dismissing problems from lovelorn, grief-stricken and morally conflicted readers in favour of those who fear their ankles are unsightly or have trouble untangling lengths of wool. But soon the thought of desperate women going unanswered becomes too much to bear and Emmy decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .

Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to female friendship, Blitz spirit, the kindness of strangers and the art of letter-writing itself.

 

Kindle Purchases

 

Camino

Camino by John H Clark III

Traveling overseas and backpacking around Europe seemed like an out-of-reach dream for John Clark, until he learned of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a 500-mile pilgrimage across the country that dates back more than 1,200 years. With encouragement from family and friends, never having traveled outside the United States, the self-proclaimed homebody from Texas hopped on a plane at age 53 alone and headed for the Iberian Peninsula. It wasn’t just the beginning of a month-long journey, but also, as he would discover, the beginning of a new life.

When he arrived in Pamplona, home of the famous San Fermin Running of the Bulls Festival, Clark immediately began to regret his decision. To put it bluntly, he was scared to death. Possessed by an obsessive mind, he could not shake the idea that he was all alone in a foreign country, some 5,000 miles and an ocean’s distance away from home, about to go on a very long walk with nothing but a backpack full of basic supplies. His first impulse was to simply pack up and go back home, but somehow, though full of anxiety, he survived that first sleepless night in a hotel room near the Plaza del Castillo, and began his trek the following day.

What happened to John Clark on his 500-mile pilgrimage? Did he make it? Find out when you crack open this colorful, insightful, and revelatory memoir full of tears and triumph. Be inspired as you experience this harrowing and heartwarming coming-of-age story that proves it’s never too late in life for a new adventure.

 

Wishes under the Willow Tree

Wishes under the Willow Tree by Phaedra Patrick

For generations, the Stone family have been making wishes on the old willow tree in their garden. And this year they’re wishing harder than ever…

Benedict and Estelle thought they’d found their happy ending. But, unable to have the children they’ve longed for, their marriage has hit the rocks. And as their tenth anniversary approaches, Estelle decides it’s time to move out. Devastated but unwilling to accept defeat, Benedict vows to win her back – he just doesn’t know how.

The unexpected – and uninvited – arrival of his estranged sixteen-year-old niece is the last thing he needs. But when a decades-old secret is brought to light, Benedict and Estelle realise they’re not the only ones in need of a second chance. And that maybe the family they wished for has been there all along…

 

A Great ReckoningA Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Former Chief Inspector Gamache has been hunting killers his entire career and as the new commander of the Sûreté Academy, he is given the chance to combat the corruption and brutality that has been rife throughout the force. But when a former colleague and professor of the Sûreté Academy is found murdered, with a mysterious map of Three Pines in his possession, Gamache has an even tougher task ahead of him.

When suspicion turns to Gamache himself, and his possible involvement in the crime, the frantic search for answers takes the investigation to the village of Three Pines, where a series of shattering secrets are poised to be revealed . . .

 

The Gondola MakerThe Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

Venetian gondola-maker Luca Vianello considers his whole life arranged. His father charted a course for his eldest son from the day he was born, and Luca is positioned to inherit one of the city’s most esteemed boatyards. But when Luca experiences an unexpected tragedy in the boatyard, he believes that his destiny lies elsewhere. Soon he finds himself drawn to restore an antique gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride.

The Gondola Maker brings the centuries-old art of gondola-making to life in the tale of a young man’s complicated relationship with his master-craftsman father. Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate the authentic details of gondola craftsmanship, along with an intimate first-person narrative set against the richly textured backdrop of 16th-century Venice.

 

Never Mind the VampiresNever Mind the Vampires by Mike Ormsby

After twenty years of living in cities around the world, British writer Mike Ormsby settles in a tiny village in Romania’s fabled Transylvania, where the air is clean, the scenery spectacular, and solitude a balm for the soul. But Mike and his wife Angela discover that their learning curve is as steep as a Carpathian slope. Following his critically acclaimed 2008 debut ‘Never Mind the Balkans, Here’s Romania’, Mike returns with his inimitable wit and sense of wonder. Join him in Transylvania. And never mind the vampires.

 

 

Angels in the MoonlightAngels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell

For Detective Bunny McGarry, life is complicated, and it is about to get more so.

It’s 1999 and his hard won reputation amongst Dublin’s criminal fraternity, for being a massive pain in the backside, is unfortunately shared by his bosses. His partner has a career-threatening gambling problem and, oh yeah, Bunny’s finally been given a crack at the big time. He’s set the task of bringing down the most skilled and ruthless armed robbery gang in Irish history. So the last thing he needs in his life is yet another complication.

Her name is Simone. She is smart, funny, talented and, well, complicated. When her shocking past turns up to threaten her and Bunny’s chance at a future, things get very complicated indeed. If the choice is upholding the law or protecting those he loves, which way will the big fella turn?

 

Christmas in CornwallA Christmas in Cornwall by Laura Briggs

It’s Julianne Morgen’s first Christmas in the Cornish village of Ceffylgwyn, and life seems perfect. Her job as an event planner couldn’t be better, she’s beginning to feel at home despite being an American in a tiny English village, and her relationship with handsome English horticulturist Matthew Rose continues to slowly blossom from friendship to love.

But when an old flame of Julianne’s appears on the spot, she finds herself tangled up in her own past. A grand charitable ball planned at Cliffs House for Christmas brings its own challenges to Julianne’s world, along with a last-minute wedding in London. And when she learns that Matthew’s former career in America has invited him back, she worries about what it means for their future together if he says ‘yes.’

 

Becoming Mrs SmithBecoming Mrs. Smith by Tanya E Williams

Not all of war’s destruction takes place on the battlefield.

Violet’s heart flutters from the scarlet fever she survived as a child, and it beats faster at the sight of John Smith, the man she plans to marry. America is entrenched in WWII, and when John enlists, Violet is certain she won’t ever forgive him for dashing their dreams. As the realities of war slowly overtake her life, Violet’s days are filled with uncertainty and grief. She struggles to maintain her faith in John, as the world as she knows it, crumbles.

Becoming Mrs. Smith is the inspiring, and at times, heartbreaking story of a woman’s struggle to reclaim what she lost. War stole the man she loves, and childhood illness weakened her heart—perhaps beyond repair. While guns rage in Europe, the war Violet faces at home may be even more devastating.

 

Second ChancesSecond Chances ny Minna Howard

Succumbing to a rather clichéd midlife crisis, Dan Haywood swaps his family for an expensive red sports car and a younger woman. After 24 years of marriage, his wife Sarah is left to pick up the pieces.

Trying her best to re-style her life, comfort hurt children, make time for ‘helpful’ friends and maintain her burgeoning career as a dress designer, Sarah feels pulled in a hundred directions. And it doesn’t help that obstacles – mostly in the form of other middle-aged men – seem to conspire against her.

Proud of herself for moving house and starting to build an independent life, she is shocked when Robert Maynard, her rather dashing new next-door neighbour, insists that the house was promised to him. Now she is destined to be pulled into his life by events beyond her control.

After one failed marriage, will she be able to find happiness again? And do second chances really come to those who wait?

This book was previously published as The Orchid Lover under the name Mary De Laszlo.

 

Island LoveIsland Love by Eva Birrane

Bereaved, broke and recently dumped, Orla O’Shea thinks life can’t get any worse. That is until, after a year of not paying her mortgage, the banks move in, and the only way she can save her home is to ask her eccentric Aunt Imelda for a loan.

Imelda readily agrees to help her niece, but on one condition – she must move to the tiny island of Inisheer for a year. With a population of 249, the majority of whom are drawing their pension, Orla thinks she’s in for a bleak winter of loneliness.

That is until he arrives… Sean McFury: The Infamous.

MMA fighter Sean is Ireland’s most famous sports star, a multi-millionaire and occasional underwear model to boot. He’s tall, handsome, has the body of a God — and he’s also an arrogant jerk. When he arrives in Inisheer, licking his wounds from a humiliating defeat, Orla instantly takes a dislike to the cocky celebrity.

However, as destiny may have it, Orla and Sean find themselves crossing paths again and again on the tiny island and sparks soon begin to fly.

Can these two lost souls find love on an island, or will the arrival of Sean’s manager and supermodel ex-girlfriend put a halt to their budding romance?

 

Hattie's MillHattie’s Mill by Marcia Willett

Hattie Weatherall’s heart leapt when she first saw Abbot’s Mill, and with her dog and an assortment of wild fowl for company she sets about renovating the mill. Sarah Farley feels a pang of envy for Hattie’s freedom. For over twenty years, Sarah has tolerated her husband’s infidelities – and her love for him is about to be tested again… As Hattie settles into life at the mill, she befriends two young boatmen. Toby is recovering from a broken marriage and, when he has a another chance at happiness, Hattie is glad welcome his new family into the fold. Joss’s problems are not so easily solved, but when he turns to Hattie for help, the motherly love that blossoms in her heart enables them both to heal old wounds…

 

Chasing MayfliesChasing Mayflies by Vincent Donovan

What would you do if your best friend’s last wish was to help him escape from a hospice so he could “take care of a few things?”

The initial dilemma for Dennis Sullivan is not the anger he will incur from Jack’s family, or how to manage a terminally-ill curmudgeon who mistakenly believes he knows everyone. He can even humor Jack’s desire to become like a mayfly – one of those nasty spring bugs with a lifespan of only a few days, but are unforgettable monsters.

The true question is why help someone who was not there for him when his own wife was dying and he needed a friend?

Guilted into this late odyssey, Dennis soon discovers the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions and it takes courage, faith, and a generous dose of anarchy to change the destination. He finds his best friend’s “bucket list on steroids” is not a tale of self-absorption at all, but rather a well-considered plan to touch his estranged family and seek forgiveness. And Jack plans the biggest makeover of all for Dennis.
Chasing Mayflies is a “R.I.P.” roaring, hilarious journey that matches an intriguing plot with a thought-provoking message that will resonate with your soul long after the story ends.

 

Secrets of Villa RosaThe Secrets of Villa Rosso by Linn B Halton

Some places stay with you forever…

When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Johnson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.

It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?

What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever.

 

Golden Rain TreeThe Golden Rain Tree by Jane Greensitt

Betrayed and abandoned by her husband, Eve dreams of escaping their sleepy Dorset village. So when the chance arises for Eve and her family to spend a summer in France, she grabs it with both hands. Set in the wonderful wine producing surroundings of the Dordogne, Eve meets charming Marco and his less charming older brother Gabriel. She toys with the idea of a summer romance. Which brother will she choose? She couldn’t possibly realise the dark secrets she’d uncover, which will bring her family closer and change their lives forever. Escape with Eve to a life less ordinary.

 

Homer's Where the Heart IsHomer’s Where the Heart Is by Marjory McGinn

HOMER’S Where the Heart Is continues the story where the acclaimed first memoir left off. Two journalists and their crazy terrier Wallace are in their second year of their amazing adventure, living in the Mani, southern Greece, sharing an olive grove with their new Greek landlords as the country veers towards bankruptcy and social upheaval.

Soon enough, the couple are pulled into the chaos of the economic crisis with some of the original village characters from Marjory’s first memoir, Things Can Only Get Feta. This candid memoir is also the story of the author’s passion for Greece. Woven into the narrative is Marjory’s thrilling back story from another dark time while she was working in Athens, during the military dictatorship of the 1970s. It will reveal haunting parallels between this period of history and the current crisis and will highlight as much about Greece as it does about her own personal journey at a young age.

Homer also takes the reader on a fascinating trip around the Mani region, visiting the island of Kythera and also taking an exclusive tour of the late Patrick Leigh Fermor’s unique home in Kardamili. This edition also features some of the author’s own photographs of Greece.

 

 

Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second ChancesSnowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances by Sue Watson

Escape to the cosy little village of Appledore for an absolutely hilarious second chance at love. Will this Christmas prove that miracles really can happen when you least expect them?

A year after she separated from her husband, Gianni, on Christmas day, Chloe’s heart is finally on the mend as she unpacks the decorations for her first ever festive holiday alone. That is, until the phone rings…

It’s the manager of Gianni’s new seaside restaurant in Appledore, begging for Chloe’s help. Equally famous for his gold-leaf Christmas puddings and his explosive temper, Gianni has been really stirring up a sensation with the locals – and not in a good way! It’s the last thing she wants to do, but Chloe knows she is the only one that can help.

As pans fly and the temperature in the kitchen rises, Chloe’s calming influence and magic touch might just get critics back on side in time to save the restaurant from sinking like a sad soufflé. But as Chloe’s eyes meet Gianni’s as they tussle over a plate of turkey tartlets, could there also be a chance for new romance on the menu?

 

Garment Maker's DaughterThe Garment Maker’s Daughter by Hillary Adrienne Stern

The Garment Maker’s Daughter is a multigenerational saga of immigrant dreams and sweatshop realities, labor strikes and women’s rights. It is the story of Lena Rothman, a shirtwaist-maker and active suffragette whose plans get derailed when she falls in love with her best friend’s boyfriend; Jake Brenner, a passionate labor organizer determined to lead the shirtwaist-makers on a high-stakes strike; and Daniel Cowan, a brilliant and ambitious night-school student hobbled by a shameful past.
Fate draws them together. Emotions bind them to each other. But secrets will tear them apart. When a devastating blaze engulfs the shirtwaist factory, Lena must fight for her life. And in the chaos of the fire’s aftermath, mistakes will be made with consequences that continue into the next generation.
Spanning the first half of the twentieth century, this is a story about unforgettable characters and the threads of friendship, love, betrayal, and redemption that form the fabric of their lives. FAns of Adriana Trigiani, Kristin Hannah, and Christine Baker Kline, will love The Garment Maker’s Daughter. It’s that rare novel you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve finished it.

 

A Christmas RomanceA Christmas Romance by Lynda Renham

Romance is the last thing on Frankie Bell’s mind as she gets ready for Christmas in the English village of Little Perran. It’s going to be a quiet affair once the annual Great Little Perran Christmas Bake Off cake competition is over, with Frankie, and her little dog Buster, tucked up warmly in Primrose Cottage. Fate, however, has other plans and Little Perran is thrown into turmoil when the film star, Roux Lockhart, comes to stay.

The spirit of the season weaves its magic and a freak snow storm that blows in a surprise visitor. Frankie discovers love from an unexpected quarter, but can she trust it? And is someone cheating with their Christmas cake?

A delightful Christmas love story to be enjoyed with a mug of hot chocolate and a roaring log fire.

 

Every Town Needs a Russian Tea RoomEvery Town Needs A Russian Tea Room by Anne Turray Steinberg

After the death of her son, Hallie Remington hides from the world in her apartment in New York City. With the help of a Russian immigrant named Nicholas, she begins to take her life back, finding refuge in her art. With the possibility of a sculpture commission from a big company, Hallie immerses herself in her work.

Her friendship with Nicholas continues to grow, and she encourages him on his quest to start his own restaurant someday—one that will be better than the Russian Tea Room in New York City. After Hallie witnesses Nicholas participating in an old Russian ritual at his father’s funeral, she senses a change in him—something that he himself cannot begin to describe.

Hallie’s own life is also changing. She can no longer stay in her marriage, and she asks her husband for a divorce. But when she and Nicholas begin a torrid affair, Hallie cannot begin to imagine where her life will lead. In Nicholas’s arms, she feels treasured and safe. But can the power of love overcome their differences?

 

Time for HonestyTime for Honesty by Mette Barfelt

Emmelin inherits her childhood home and must decide whether to move back to the small town of Solvik or sell it. With a husband who can’t stand the country life, and no jobs available, the decision seems like an easy one – or is it?
Confronted with decisions made in her younger days, Emmelin faces deep remorse and indecisiveness. Trying to justify her actions and make things right, she discovers she’s far from the only one withholding the truth and hiding secrets.

Done mourning his late wife, Dennis is ready to leave France and move home after years abroad. He’s devastated when he discovers his childhood sweetheart Emmelin has lied and kept his daughter from him, even if she claims she had his best interest at heart.
Can Dennis overcome his fury and forgive Emmelin for her deceit? And can Emmelin forgive Dennis for withholding essential information that would have changed their lives forever? Can they learn to trust each other again, embrace the future, and give their love a second chance?

 

Coming Home to the Comfort Food CaféComing Home to the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

Moving to the little village of Budbury, Zoe hopes the crisp Dorset sea breeze and gentle pace of life will be a fresh start for her and her goddaughter, Martha.

Luckily for them both, the friendly community at the café provide listening ears, sage advice, shoulders to cry on, and some truly excellent carrot cake. And when Martha’s enigmatic, absent father suddenly turns up, confusing not only Martha but Zoe too, the love and support of their new-found friends is the best present they could ask for.

Have Zoe and Martha truly found their home at the Comfort Food Café?

 

Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas FairSleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…?

 

The Cheesemaker's HouseThe Cheesemaker’s House by Jane Cable

When Alice Hart’s husband runs off with his secretary, she runs off with his dog to lick her wounds in a North Yorkshire village. Battling with loneliness but trying to make the best of her new start, she soon meets her neighbours, including the drop-dead gorgeous builder Richard Wainwright and the kindly yet reticent café owner, Owen Maltby.

As Alice employs Richard to start renovating the barn next to her house, all is not what it seems. Why does she start seeing Owen when he clearly isn’t there? Where – or when – does the strange crying come from? And if Owen is the village charmer, what exactly does that mean?

The Cheesemaker’s House is a gripping read, inspired by a framed will found in the dining room of the author’s dream Yorkshire house. The previous owners explained that the house had been built at the request of the village cheesemaker in 1726 – and that the cheesemaker was a woman. And so the historical aspect of the story was born.

 

Christmas at Hope CottageChristmas at Hope Cottage by Lily Graham

In the little village of Whistling, with its butterscotch cottages and rolling green hills, snow is beginning to fall. Christmas is coming, and Emma Halloway is on her way home.

When twenty-eight-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.

Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them.

As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place… and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.

The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

 

A Winter AffairA Winter Affair by Minna Howard

With a recent divorce and empty nest Eloise Brandon is facing Christmas alone until a harried phone call from her godfather changes everything.

Accepting his challenge, Eloise finds herself en-route to Verbier and to her godfather’s chalet in the beautiful Swiss Alps to help cater for some seriously rich, high rolling guests.

What ensues makes it a Christmas to remember. A heady alpine mixture of old friends, ex-husbands, mega-rich, super demanding guests, a dishevelled proprietor and Bert the dog.

 

A New York Love StoryA New York Love Story by Cassie Rocca

Giving a present is not always easy. Clover O’Brian knows that only too well: her job consists of helping people in the arduous task of choosing unusual gifts. Christmas is coming, New York is buzzing, and Clover, who has always loved the festive period, savours the atmosphere.

Cade Harrison already has everything in life. A Hollywood actor, he is handsome, rich, famous and popular. Success, however, has its downsides; having just emerged from a disastrous relationship with an actress, he feels a need to hide away in an area unfrequented by stars, in an apartment lent him by a friend, far from prying eyes – especially those of tabloid reporters. But as chance will have it, the apartment in question is right opposite the one occupied by Clover, who until now has seen Hollywood actors only on the big screen. Two quite different lives meet by chance, at the most exhilarating time of year…

 

Christmas at Mistletoe CottageChristmas at Mistletoe Cottage by Lucy Daniels

Christmas has arrived in the little village of Welford. The scent of hot roasted chestnuts is in the air, and a layer of frost sparkles on the ground.

This year, vet Mandy Hope is looking forward to the holidays. Her animal rescue centre, Hope Meadows, is up and running – and she’s finally going on a date with Jimmy Marsh, owner of the local outward bound centre.

The advent of winter sees all sorts of animals cross Mandy’s path, from goats named Rudolph to baby donkeys – and even a pair of reindeer! But when a mysterious local starts causing trouble, Mandy’s plans for the centre come under threat. She must call on Jimmy and her fellow villagers to put a stop to the stranger’s antics and ensure that Hope Meadows’ first Christmas is one to remember.

One thing’s for certain: this Christmas, there’ll be animal escapades, kisses under the mistletoe…and plenty of festive cheer for all.

 

Vote For MurderVote for Murder by Jacqueline Beard

In the Spring of 1911, suffragist Louisa Russell finds an old diary in a box of artefacts, while attending a census evasion night at the Old Museum in Ipswich.

The diary recounts the last days of Mary Emily Cage, executed for the murder of her husband six decades earlier.

When Louisa’s next door neighbour, Charles Drummond, dies under suspicious circumstances, the parallels between the two deaths become impossible to ignore.

But can two deaths sixty years apart be linked and can Louisa find the poisoner before an innocent woman is convicted?

 

When the Future Comes Too SoonWhen the Future Comes too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke

In Japanese-occupied Malaya, lives are shattered and a woman discovers her inner strength in a world ravaged by war.

Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family are turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight.

Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she never could have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attentions of another man.

Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.

 

The Little Bakery on Rosemary LaneThe Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

Prepare to fall in love with beautiful village of Burley Bridge.

Growing up in a quiet Yorkshire village, Roxanne couldn’t wait to escape and find her place in the world in London. As a high-powered fashion editor she lives a glamorous life of perennial singlehood – or so it seems to her sister Della. But when Roxanne gets her heart broken by a fashion photographer, she runs away, back to Della’s welcoming home above her bookshop in Burley Bridge.

But Burley Bridge, Roxanne discovers, is even quieter than she remembered. There’s nothing to do, so Roxanne agrees to walk Della’s dog Stanley. It’s on these walks that Roxanne makes a startling discovery: the people who live in Burley Bridge are, well, just people – different from the fashion set she’s used to, but kind and even interesting. Michael, a widower trying to make a go of a small bakery, particularly so. Little by little, cupcake by cupcake, Roxanne and Michael fall into a comforting friendship.

Could there be a life for Roxanne after all, in the place she’s spent 46 years trying to escape?

 

Casa ClaraCasa Clara by Kate McCabe

Emma Frazer packs up her job in Dublin and flees to Fuengirola in southern Spain, where she finds refuge in a beautiful little hotel right on the beach – Casa Clara. Here she can escape the mounting pressure from her domineering elder sister Trish who is pushing her into a marriage she herself has grave doubts about.

Emma quickly falls in love with the hotel – her little room overlooking the courtyard with its vivid flowers and soothing fountain, the cast of quirky guests, warm staff and flamboyant owner. When the post of receptionist falls vacant she seizes the bull by the horns and, with little Spanish and no experience, cajoles her way into the job. She soon discovers a talent for management and Casa Clara flourishes in her care.

When Fate brings the man of her dreams to the door, the future looks perfect.

But her scheming sister is still busy tracking her down and eventually Emma must face forces that threaten to destroy the idyllic life she has built for herself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five on Friday with Julia Claiborne Johnson @JuliaClaiborneJ

head shot for jill

This week I’m delighted to introduce Julia Claiborne Johnson as my author in the spotlight. Julia’s debut novel the Los Angeles Times bestseller, Be Frank With Me, was one of my books of the year in 2016. You can read my review here.

Author Bio:

Julia grew up on a farm in Tennessee in the southern part of the United States and so knows exactly what a peacock in a barnyard full of chickens looks like. After attending college in Virginia, she moved to New York City, where she worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying her comedy-writer husband and moving to Los Angeles and having two children. Her best-selling debut, Be Frank with Me was tapped in February of 2016 for its monthly IndieNext honors, given to the most eagerly-anticipated novels by the American Bookseller’s Association, and was one of six finalists chosen by that organization for Debut of the Year. Frank was also selected by the American bookstore chain Books-a-Million as the President’s Pick for 2016, as a Best Book of February 2016 by Amazon, was a winner of the Audie Award for Best Female Narrator and was listed as one of the top 100 novels of 2016 by Goodreads.
Her mother is very proud.

So without further ado lets hear from Julia.

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

music-score-notes.jpg

 

A piece by John Cage called 4’ 33. It’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Some people can listen to music when they write. I am not one of them. I wear big noise-cancelling earmuffs when I write, like the guys who have the flashlights and guide airplanes to their parking places, so I can hear myself think. Myself thinking sounds a lot like the ocean noise you hear in a conch shell when you hold it to your ear.

Ship in Rough Seas. It’s a white noise thing I listen to when I can’t take having my head squeezed in the vice of those earmuffs anymore. My next-door neighbor likes to talk on her phone on her back porch, and as much as I love eavesdropping she never says anything really interesting so I had to find a way to drown her out. The way the ship’s timbers creak in that white noise recording makes me feel better about the way my joints sound when I stand up—See? It could be worse! The one called Gentle Rain makes me need to go to the bathroom, so that one’s obviously out, and the huge cracks of thunder in Summer Thunderstorm startle me, even though anybody with any brains would know when they were coming after they’d heard the thing once or twice. Allow me to remind you of what it sounds like inside my brain: conch shell.

Walking on Sunshine, by Katrina and the Waves. There was a time when I loved nothing better than going to the beach. I can vividly remember lying on an Elvis beach towel spread on the sand in Southhampton, the American one, hearing that song coming from somebody’s boom box (A boom box! How’s that for dating myself?) and thinking the universe was playing that song for me. I had on a bikini, which seems unimaginable to me now, and when I got up off that beach towel, there were no Ships on Rough Seas sounds coming from my joints. Ah, youth.

Born in the USA. Because when that album was big I lived in New York and worked at a magazine, and we all had crushes on Bruce Springsteen. The day he married his first wife—what was her name again?—we were all so dejected. My boss came into our office and said that the guy who ran the newsstand where she bought her paper said every youngish woman who walked up to his newsstand that day stopped dead when she saw the headline and said, “Oh, no! Not Bruce!” It was a dark day for all of us. I like remembering that time now because of course none of us had any idea then of what a dark day was really like.

Rainbow Connection, Kermit the Frog. Years ago my children, who were still in grade school at the time and fought constantly, got together in secret and learned how to play this song—she on clarinet, he on keyboard—for my birthday. Now I can’t think about that song without my eyes filling with tears. Dang it. Now I have to go find a box of tissues.

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

 

Sunscreen. I may not have mentioned, but I have red hair and freckles. I know, I know, I never should have laid out in the sun. Why didn’t I listen to my mother? A cosmic joke, I realize now, since I’ve ended up in Los Angeles and am harried by sunshine everywhere I go. I keep my dermatologist in business, harvesting all the hideous things that come as a result of lying in the sunshine in a bikini thirty years ago. Band-aids—I think you call them plasters—on the face in your fifties. It’s a hot look! You should try it! On the upside, I really love my dermatologist, and we never would have met and become friends if it weren’t for my misspent youth.

Naps. I do some of my best thinking lying prostrate with my eyes closed. If I should happen to fall asleep while I’m doing this, well, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Exercise. To keep from spreading from here to Cuba from sitting at a desk all day, I used to run seven miles three times a week. Then, surprise, surprise, I had knee surgery around the time my book came out. I can’t run like I used to, so now I swim at a pool at the end of my block. I never learned to swim, though, so I do it with a snorkel and a nose clip and flippers. The last couple of times I’ve gone there has been someone new in the lane next to mine, a woman my friend just this morning told me had recently joined our club. Diana Nyad. Maybe you’ve heard of her. She swam from Florida to Cuba, speaking of Cuba. So I’m in one lane with my nose clip and snorkel, and in the next lane, one of the greatest swimmers alive.

My waterproof Ipod. While I swim I listen to novels. I swim for what used to seem like a long time to me until I started sharing the pool with someone who has swum to Cuba. Anyway. It’s rare in life, or in my life anyway, to be someplace where I can “read” a book for an hour without a person or a chore that has to be taken care of calling out to me. So what a luxury to have that time where it’s just me and a book. Before I discovered the waterproof ipod, swimming was so boring it made me want to stab myself. Now I can hardly wait to swim. Also, it’s the pool is the one public place where you can sob brokenly while wearing goggles when a character you’ve fallen in love with dies. In a coffee shop, people would avert their eyes and edge away.

Snacks. I have them scheduled. One at 10:30, one at 3. At my house we call the components of this five-meal-a-day system breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, second lunch and dinner. If I’m not fed regularly I get cantankerous, which of course I never am otherwise.

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

Don’t worry so much. It’s a waste of time and energy, and worrying doesn’t change the outcome of anything.

Don’t envy other people their success. They probably go home at night and lie on a couch and cry through the evening news, thinking about what pathetic losers they are and what a mess the world is, just like you do.

Sleep more. That’s probably why you burst into tears at the drop of a hat, younger self. That’s why the building super, who lives next door, looks worried every time he sees you and says, “Are you okay?” Sure, you want to tell yourself the shallowness of your tears comes of being such a sensitive artiste, but honestly, you’re just tired.

Stay out of the sun, like your mother told you to. See above.

Don’t buy that skirt. I wasn’t really a spendthrift when I was younger, but there are still a couple of things I bought and never wore because I never got skinny enough to fit into it and the slightly-off color didn’t get better once I got it home. I still regret the money I wasted on these things. Thirty years later. Hmm. Maybe this one should be let go of your mistakes.

 

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

 

I’m an inch shorter than I used to be. Even the people who’ve known me since I was in my twenties probably don’t notice, but I do.

I know how to string barbed wire. I grew up on a farm. I’ve also delivered colts and calves with my bare hands (now I think, ew) and know how to milk into a cat’s open mouth. Also into a bucket.

I would sell my soul to have straight hair.

I’ve been married more than once. Not a big deal these days, I know, but when I mentioned something about my first husband in front of my then-seven-year-old son, he was thunderstruck, and couldn’t wait for his father to get home so he could tell him. A fact which my husband knew, of course, but one I frequently forget. That’s how long ago it was.

One of my legs is shorter than the other. So one of my shoes is considerably taller than the other. No wonder the knee on that side gave out early. It had all that extra weight to drag around.

 

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

 

Go to Venice. When my son was really little we had a very narrow driveway that was almost impossible to back down without ripping a rearview mirror off the car. He was screaming, I was sweating, and suddenly I realized, “I will never see Venice.” I think that was my version of “Why did I have children?”

Have grandchildren. Now that my own children are almost grown, babies are looking pretty good to me. Just as long as I get to hold them, hand them back when I’ve had enough, and sleep through the night undisturbed. I realize now that’s why my own mother was always on me to have children. I’m sorry I kept her waiting so long, though I did offer more than once to have a couple in my twenties when I hadn’t been married even once yet. She said she could wait.

Pay two college tuitions. Now you know how old my children are.

Read all the books I want to read that I have stacked up around my house. Writing books is way more time consuming than I thought it would be, and it has really cut into my consumption of novels. See “waterproof ipod.”

Finish my second novel. There are days when I think doing that may kill me. But now whenever I have a brush with death—merging onto a Los Angeles freeway, for example, or suffering through a bumpy plane landing in Chicago—I think, but if I die I won’t have to finish my second novel and that really cheers me up. I’m a hundred pages in. Cross your fingers for me.

 

Thanks so much Julia for taking time out from book number two to join us – my fingers are firmly crossed.  I think you’ll have plenty of people agreeing with item 4 on your bucket list, and we’ve all had that skirt/shirt/dress scenario.

o – 0 – o

Julia’s Publications

I can’t urge you enough to get acquainted with Frank, he is “ the peacock in a barnyard full of chickens”.

Meet Frank – a modern nine-year-old boy with the wit of Noël Coward and the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star.

Meet Mimi Banning – a reclusive literary legend and mother to Frank. Mimi has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, keeping her secrets, hiding from the world. Until Alice.

Meet Alice – a level-headed young woman who finds herself thrust into the Banning household, charged with looking after Mimi’s unusual son. In so doing, Alice discovers a part of herself she never knew was missing.

Full of heart and humour, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.

 

You can catch up with Julia via

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

#ThrowbackThursday – Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald – 4*s #bookreview @SirBenfro

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting  Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald  – first reviewed in March 2015.

Prayer for the Dead

‘Are you ready to be reborn?’

The search for a missing journalist is called off as a body is found at the scene of a carefully staged murder.

In a sealed chamber, deep in the heart of Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of caves and passages sprawling beneath Edinburgh, the victim has undergone a macabre ritual of purification.

Inspector Tony McLean knew the dead man, and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. The baffling lack of forensics at the crime scene seems impossible. But it is not the only thing about this case that McLean will find beyond belief.

Teamed with the most unlikely and unwelcome of allies, he must track down a killer driven by the darkest compulsions, who will answer only to a higher power…

‘Are you ready for the mysteries to be revealed?’

My Review

Despite being No 5 in the series, this was my first encounter with Inspector McLean. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment as the references to previous incidents were for the most part fairly fleeting apart from the mention of a significant death which will no doubt be a fairly big spoiler when I go back and read the previous books.

The book involves McLean being called in to investigate a series of murders with each one displaying a common feature, a complete lack of forensics. While he begins to think these apparently unconnected killings might actually be connected, his superiors remain unconvinced.

I found the plot intriguing and I like Oswald’s writing style. I enjoyed the mix of police procedural with a hint of other worldliness that pervades in the background. Despite not telling us too much about McLean himself, there are hints and snippets dropped through-out the book that help to build a picture of a private, meticulous but likeable and caring man. McLean’s relationship with Rose and his defence of her really brought out his humanity. The inter office politics and relationships added a warmth and humour to balance the darkness of the investigations, and I enjoyed his relationships with “Grumpy Bob” and DC Stuart MacBride (no coincidence for readers of dark gritty but equally brilliant crime fiction set in Aberdeen).

The other thing I enjoyed about this book was the various seemingly unrelated sub plots that ran through the book that added extra interest. I loved the character of Rose, a trans gender, cat loving, medium. Not a character I was expecting to encounter, but then nothing in McLean’s world is always what it seems.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m now looking forward, to going back and catching up with the previous titles. If you like well written crime thrillers, love Edinburgh or are fans of Ian Rankin or Stuart MacBride then I think you’ll find James Oswald right up your street.