Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery THE ALEXANDRITE by Dione Jones

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Alexandrite by Dione Jones

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I purchased the book for review as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team.

This book covers multiple generations of the titled Scawton family of England. The center of the story is the current Lady Scawton, Pamela, who discovers the body of a stranger in the woods near the family home of Ashly House.

Pamela represents perhaps the last generation of the English upper class raised to be waited on and respected for their title alone, but she is, in fact, rather down to earth. She endured years of emotional and psychological trauma at the hands of her husband, CJ, and her only son, Charles, now Lord Scawton, is as selfish and overbearing as her husband.

In the pocket of the stranger is a letter addressed to Lord Scawton and an odd stone, one which changes color from green to pink, depending on the light. Pamela has no idea why the stranger, who had come to England from New Zealand, wanted to see her husband, what the abbreviated letter means, nor the reason for the stone. Eventually, she, against the strong wishes of her son, travels to New Zealand to get answers. The stone, an alexandrite, mined in Tsarist Russia, gives its name to the book.

The book has numerous flashbacks to scenes involving the family and their servants during the two decades after WWI, and from Ashly House to New Zealand farmland. Pamela’s trip reveals how the flashbacks to events after WW I are woven into the present.

I enjoyed the book, but for me it was a long read, with a great deal of exposition and some confusion with the many characters in the various time lines and places and multiple points of view. A character list at the beginning of the book would have been helpful. The site transitions within chapters also created some difficulties for me as I struggled to identify and remember the characters.

That being said, the author does a wonderful job creating the main characters. I felt pity for Pamela having such a difficult married life, knowing she was trapped there, and having a son who treated her disrespectfully. She is such a good character that I wanted to shake her and tell her to stand up for herself. It was gratifying that eventually she did. Her son Charles, the butler Godfrey, Ginny, the daughter of Pamela’s friend Di Williams and Theodore Cook, the brother of the dead man and a shambling old wreck in and out of his memories, made strong impressions. I also liked the scenes set in New Zealand, where the author resides, especially the sheep shearing and Karekare Beach.

Another strong element for me was the description of the different roles of women set against the British class system, class conflicts and changing societal values.

This book had much to recommend, but the numerous characters and their relationships are  difficult to sort out through the various stories winding within the book.

Book description

Who is the stranger found dead in the woods, outside Pamela Lady Scawton’s family home? Why was he carrying a stone that changes colour and a threatening letter?
The quest leads from World War One to the present day and from an English village to New Zealand farmland, to discover how past events are intertwined with the present. To unravel the mystery Pamela is forced to confront truths that shatter her beliefs about her family and their place in the world.
The Alexandrite is a story of class conflict, hidden sins, and deceit.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT #Thriller Nothing Bad Happens Here by @NikkiCAuthor #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

Nothing Bad Happens Here by [Crutchley, Nikki]

This is Nikki Crutchley’s first book, and for an initial outing, it’s pretty darned good.

The story:

A young tourist disappears from Castle Bay, a small tourist town on the east coast of North Island of New Zealand. When her mangled and mauled body is discovered, news crews and journalists descend on the town. Among them is Miller Hatcher, a young magazine writer battling alcoholism, who is sent there by her editor with the promise of a huge splash in the magazine if she can assemble a strong story for the next month’s edition.

Leading the investigation in Castle Bay is Sgt. Kahu Parata, a Maori and twenty-year member of the local constabulary, at least Detective Nicholson and a team of four arrive. Nicholson pushes Parata aside, leaving him to the day to day running of the station and the odious task of informing the victim’s parents. But Nicholson doesn’t know the town like Parata does. Castle Bay has some dark and well concealed history, but everyone believes nothing bad ever happens there.

Miller finds the only housing available at a wellness retreat a few minutes out of town. It is recommended to her by the wife of the head of the Town Council who herself is going there for a few days’ respite. The wellness center is populated by a small group of women experiencing a variety of crises and has a threatening caretaker who has found needed isolation there after losing his family.  A visitor at the wellness center disappeared from there many years previously, but she was never found, and the town’s residents still believes Castle Bay is safe and welcoming.

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There are several threads to this mystery, which the author unravels deliberately and with excruciating tension, before wrapping them together tidily in a completely unexpected ending. There are also a couple of ‘gotcha’ moments that gave me a chill. The pacing of the story is excellent and keeps you turning pages (or swiping your Kindle, as the case may be). But the best part of the book are the characters, whom Ms. Crutchley details in such precision that you can easily see them in your mind’s eye. What I particularly liked was that each of them had flaws – their imperfections made them three dimensional and human.

Of the two characters from whose point of view them mystery is seen, I found myself liking Parada, who while caring for a gentle wife with an undisclosed but serious illness, mourns the fact they’ve been unable to have children. Miller is less likeable – her need for alcohol interferes with her investigative journalism and causes her to pull her hairs out one by one in disgusting detail. Nevertheless, she is largely fearless and determined to follow events wherever they lead, even when one of the women at the wellness center subsequently disappears.

The town itself – in an exotic locale for those of us not from that part of the world – becomes a character, full of interesting detail, and darkly looming, surrounded by jungle. As Miller investigates the trails leading into the jungle, the black cloud of evil that seems ever-present for most of the book is cloying, palpable, and ominous.

This is a satisfying read and I recommend it – a great first book for this author.

A quote to tempt you:

“She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?”

Book description

“She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?”

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.
Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder.
Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

About the author

After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls.
Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and recently has had success in flash fiction. She has been published in Flash Frontier, Flash Fiction Magazine and Mayhem Literary Journal. Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Nothing Bad Happens Here is her first novel (but hopefully not her last), set on the Coromanadel Coast of New Zealand.

Nikki Crutchley

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