Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Vintage #Mystery HIGH WIRE IN NUALA by @harrietsteel1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading High Wire In Nuala by Harriet Steel

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The racecourse in Nuala was busy, but not for the racing. The Russian circus had come to town with its colourful wagons and big top. Excitement had built with the appearance of posters advertising trapeze artists, jugglers and high wire, even a snake charmer—de Silva’s dislike of the reptiles causing him to shudder at the thought—along with several other acts.

It was full house for opening night and all was going well with the dance troupe opening the show, followed by the rest of the acts, until there was what looked like a terrible accident during the high wire walk. Inspector Shanti de Silva was in the audience with his wife, Jane and their friends, Doctor and Mrs Hebden, so de Silva and Dr Hebden were able to be first on the scene.

“So tense that you could almost touch it, a hush had fallen over the audience. The low, pulsing beat of the drums heightened the apprehension that filled the air. Every time Tatiana paused, there were gasps of alarm. A pain throbbed behind de Silva’s eyes. He felt as if he was making the slow walk with her. At last, the end of the wire was not far away. Tatiana turned her head a fraction towards the audience; he glimpsed a smile of mischievous triumph on her face. She took another step closer to the tower, and the audience exhaled a collective sigh of relief. Soon she would be safe. Clapping began to swell.
And then it died.”

De Silva suspects this was no accident and that he was looking at a murder, but wonders if his hands are tied as his superior, Archie Clutterbuck, believes the suspicious death of a foreigner isn’t a matter for the Nuala police. But as de Silva was questioning the circus folk another body was discovered.

High Wire in Nuala is another enjoyable mystery, set in the evocatively described Ceylon of the 1930s, capturing the sense of place and the contrast between cultures. The rich, multicultural way of life is still evident but also with the possibility of changes on the horizon. It was lovely once again to get reacquainted with the engaging characters at the heart of the series.

The well thought through plot unfolds at a steady pace as de Silva’s investigation leads him to uncover much more than he initially expected.

Book description

Much to the delight of the locals, a colourful Russian circus rolls into Nuala, but the fun ends abruptly when, on the opening night, a tragic accident takes place.
Shanti de Silva and his wife, Jane are among the crowd to witness the accident. Or was it an accident? Inspector de Silva senses murder, and soon, he’s juggling with the evidence. Will the trail lead to the circus’s dashing stunt rider and master of horse, Alexei Goncharov, or to Alexei’s brother Boris, its boisterous ringmaster? Throw a string of jewel thefts and some deadly snakes into the mix and the list of suspects grows.
De Silva will need to keep his wits about him to unravel yet another absorbing puzzle in this charming and addictive mystery series set in the 1930s in exotic Ceylon.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Western Style Novella BILLY (THE KID) by Peter Meech @backonthebeach

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Billy (The Kid) by Peter Meech

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This is the first novel I read by the author (although I might have watched some of the productions based on his scripts), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If Peter Meech carries on writing fiction, I intend to keep reading him.

The description below provides enough detail to allow possible readers to decide if they are interested or not. This novella is a Western, a late-day Western. We are at a point in history where there is little of the old West left, where there are cars, the cinematographer, inventions all around (this novella has some of the feel of steampunk, because there is a lot of attention paid to novelties and new technology, as it would have been the case, especially in a small town), and legends and myths about the good old times are rife, to the point where there are books, movies, and even auctions of items belonging to Western heroes, outlaws, and everything in between. This is emphasised by the story about two bootlegging operations that brings in an element of the gangster tradition as well (down to golden teeth, fancy cars, henchmen, offers one dare not refuse, and bloodbaths) and a reminder of the Prohibition and its business practices. At the heart of the book is the story of Billy the Kid, or at least, of a retired dentist who claims to be (or have been in a previous life) Billy the Kid. That means that much of the book revolves around: issues of identity, what makes us who we are (and what makes others accept or not who we are), growing old, popularity (particularly interesting in these times of social media and celebrities), living with a certain reputation, wanting to set the record straight, second chances (there is a budding romance as well), settling old debts, old and new friends, honour and morality. Times are a-changing and that is also evident in the book, which manages to conjure up a vivid and compelling image of that momentous time and place in the readers’ minds.

The story is narrated in the third person, most of the time from Billy’s (?) point of view, although at times there is an omniscient narrator that shares with readers an observer’s viewpoint, but whose style is very similar to that of Billy’s own reflections (and considering he is forever researching, compiling information, and taking notes to write his own story, a metafictional interpretation is also possible). Billy is an observer of people, places, the weather, and everything in between, and the author manages to combine language that feels historically appropriate, with a lyricism that makes for a beautiful reading experience. His experience writing, producing and directing scripts is quite evident, as the scenes are vividly rendered, not only visually, thanks to the detailed but not excessive descriptions, but also to the use of all the senses. We hear, smell, touch and even taste what happens. At times, we can see the main character zooming in on a sound, an image, or a little detail. And that is what makes it come alive. Oh, a word or pre-warning. Although I enjoyed the snippets of dialogue included (and some would not be out of place in the call-and-response tradition), I have to warn you that no dialogue quotations are used to mark the sentences spoken by the characters, although the dialogue tags used prevent any confusion.

There are numerous characters, although some don’t play big roles and are more a part of the background. Some are as expected in the genre (the corrupt sheriff, the waitress with a heart of gold, the baddy/gangster and his henchmen, Billy’s pals…) but some are better drawn (especially considering this is a short book), like Tommy, Billy’s young friend and protégé, and his love interest, Grace. Billy himself is an ambiguous but engaging character, and he has his (well-deserved) moment of glory towards the end of the book. If he is or not truly Billy the Kid… Let’s say you can read the book and reach your own conclusions.

Talking about the ending, I enjoyed it and felt it suited the genre well (yes, the protagonist rides into the horizon), but things are left open to interpretation. My favourite kind of ending.

So, I thoroughly enjoy this book, and I recommend it to fans of Westerns, particularly modern takes on the genre, those interested in historical fiction especially set on the West or the prohibition era, anybody interested in Billy the Kid, and readers looking for a short novel wonderfully written. This is a book to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than to be read at speed, but due to its length, it won’t last you long anyway. I recommend you to read the interview with the author and to try a sample if you have any doubts, and if not, don’t hesitate. I will make sure I follow the author’s trajectory from now on.

Book description

Pueblo, Colorado,1932. Bootleggers thrive in a town where the sheriff is on the take and you can kill a man with impunity. In this thrilling narrative, a once-famous outlaw finds himself thrust into the middle of a bootleg war against his will. At stake is nothing less than the life of his best friend and his last chance at true love with the town beauty. But is the legendary gunman who he claims to be, or is he just a retired dentist with a vivid imagination? In this remarkable first novel, Peter Meech reimagines the figure of Billy the Kid in a story told with verve and humor. Visually magnificent, and brimming with small-town charm, Billy (the Kid) builds to a climax that is as powerful as it is unexpected.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT 1930s American #HistoricalFiction THREADS by @CWhitneyAuthor

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here, https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Threads by Charlotte Whitney

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4 out of 5 stars

Threads is a set on a farm in Michigan during the Depression, about a family struggling to survive.  The novel is told in alternating first person points of view of the three daughters: Flora, who is seventeen, Nellie, the youngest, who is seven, and Irene, somewhere in the middle.  Nellie is a tad wild, with a vivid imagination; Irene is a rather smug goody-goody on the surface, but is clearly suffering from ‘middle-child syndrome’, while Flora is very much the ‘big sister’, nearly an adult, who sees how the world works outside the concerns of the other two.  Each sister’s character is clearly defined, with her own distinctive voice.

The novel is primarily concerned simply with the way of life of that place and time; it is character rather than plot-driven, an illustration of the family’s world and their fears, joys and struggles.  These people were POOR.  If you’ve never dined on potatoes every night, or looked on a bean sandwich as a treat, you should never think of yourself as hard-up again!  Within the girls’ narratives, Ms Whitney has shown us a larger picture of the country in the 1930s; they tell of the ‘train riders’; unemployed, itinerant young men who travelled the country by stowing away on trains, begging for food wherever they stopped.  The way the community pitched in to help each other.  The fears that consumed them all; if they couldn’t sell enough produce, they would lose their homes.

I found Flora’s chapters the most interesting as she was concerned not only her own insular world (what happened at school, etc) but talked about the way of life as a whole.  On occasion, though, Irene and Nellie would reveal much within their own childlike eye-view; this was done most skillfully.

If I have any criticisms, it’s just that I would have liked a bit more actual plot; events coming to a climax and then being resolved, at some point.  There is a little mystery concerning an event from the first chapter about which we don’t get the answer until the end, but I felt there were missed opportunities to make the story more of a page-turner.  However, I did enjoy it, throughout, and would most certainly recommend it as an insightful and highly readable look at this recent and still relevant time in America’s history.

Book description

It’s a boring, hardscrabble life for three sisters growing up on a Michigan farm in the throes of the Great Depression. But, when young Nellie, digging for pirate treasure, discovers the tiny blue-black hand of a dead baby, rumors begin to fly. Narrated by Nellie and her two older sisters, the story follows the girls as they encounter a patchwork of threatening circumstances and take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Cosy Vintage #Mystery TAKEN IN NUALA by @harrietsteel1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Taken In Nuala by Harriet Steel

Taken in Nuala (The Inspector de Silva Mysteries Book 8) by [Harriet Steel]

There is a slight air of menace in this volume of the investigations of Inspector Shanti de Silva in the delightful hill town of Nuala. There are still sophisticated gatherings at the sumptuous home of Assistant Governor Archie Clutterbuck and his wife Florence, but the talk is of a gathering storm in Britain, hoping for “Peace in our time.” However, people are excited to meet wealthy world travellers Walter and Grace Tankerton and their sullen daughter Phoebe. Even more interesting is the American millionaire, Hank O’Halloran and his vivacious daughter Marie. Such conspicuous wealth attracts unwelcome attention, so Tankerton has employed an ex-military man, Patterson to guard his daughter, Phoebe.

Soon an audacious kidnapping occurs and while Shanti and his men investigate, an unpopular local man is found dead. Is there a link to a clairvoyant visited by Phoebe and Marie?  The police spend long hours watching for the kidnappers and begin to suspect one of the staff employed by Tankerton or O’Halloran. Meanwhile there seems to be a mysterious animal skulking in Shanti’s garden.

The plot of this mystery is complex and puzzling, set against the happy married life of Shanti and his English wife, Jane in the idyllic pre-war setting of Ceylon under British Colonial rule. I always enjoy these detective stories, but this volume is particularly engaging.

Book description

When an American millionaire and his glamorous daughter visit Nuala, the splendour they bring to the town’s high society is soon tragically tarnished by a vicious crime.

With many avenues of inquiry to follow, including the involvement of a mysterious fortune teller, Inspector de Silva will need all his resources to unravel the evidence and avert further disaster.

A gripping mystery with lots of twists and turns set in the colourful and fascinating world of 1930s Ceylon.

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Taken in Nuala (The Inspector de Silva Mysteries Book 8) by [Harriet Steel]

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @CathyRy reviews vintage #mystery A Clerical Error by @newwrites

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading A Clerical Error by J New

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This is the third book in the cozy mystery series set in the 1930s, featuring
Ella Bridges and her ghost cat, Phantom. Ella’s life has taken a very unexpected turn. Having believed her husband, John, had died two years ago, she now knows that to be false after a telephone call out of the blue and a conversation with the Home Secretary. With the help of her Uncle Albert, Ella finally learns the truth about John and his activities. Her housekeeper, Mrs Shaw, also proves not to be who, or what, she had claimed. A visit with her Aunt Margaret goes someway to helping Ella to absorb the shocks, put her feelings of anger and distress in perspective and restore her composure.

Ella returns home feeling much more positive and looking forward to a return visit from her aunt. A near miss while out on a bicycle ride brings about an acquaintance with two ladies involved in raising funds for the church and Ella is soon persuaded to run a stall at the May Day Fete. Sergeant Baxter, the policeman Ella has worked with previously was attending the fete, along with the vicar, Father Michael, recently returned from a sabbatical. The fun was cut short drastically when a suspicious death occurred.

Another entertaining mystery, well written with a well crafted and twisty story line. As with the previous books the atmosphere of the era is brought to life perfectly, with suitable dialogue, lifestyle and descriptive prose. Realistic, developing characters and relationships add to the appeal. Despite Ella’s personal problems, she and Sergeant Baxter work together and follow the clues, some of which, understandably, take Ella a little longer to process this time round. It’s useful, however, having friends in high places who are only too willing to help.

There’s less of the paranormal in this story but I was glad Phantom made several appearances. A well thought through and interesting mystery, the reveal coming as a complete surprise. The threads running through the main story line were all wrapped up too, which was good. These are the perfect cozies; engaging characters, no sex or gratuitous violence and a very enjoyable story in a vintage setting.

Book description

When the crime scene is pure coincidence and there’s no evidence, how do you prove it was murder?

Ella Bridges faces her most challenging investigation so far when the vicar dies suddenly at the May Day Fete. But with evidence scarce and her personal life unravelling in ways she could never have imagined, she misses vital clues in the investigation.
Working alongside Sergeant Baxter of Scotland Yard, will Ella manage to unearth the clues needed to catch the killer before another life is lost? Or will personal shock cloud her mind and result in another tragedy?

‘A Clerical Error’ is set in 1930’s England, and is the third of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series.
‘Miss Marple meets The Ghost Whisperer’ – Perfect For Fans of Golden Age Murder Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Clean Reads and British Amateur Sleuths

About the author

J. New is the British author of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. Set on the fictitious island of Linhay in the south of England during the 1930’s, they are an homage to the Golden Age mysteries but with a contemporary twist.

J. New

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Dark Clouds Over Nuala by @harrietsteel1 Historical #mystery

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Dark Clouds Over Nuala by Harriet Steel

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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.

Book Description

Set in Ceylon in the 1930s, this second book in the Inspector de Silva Mysteries offers another colourful, relaxing read as the arrival in the hill town of Nuala of the heir to an English earldom signals more trouble for the hapless Inspector de Silva and a new mystery to solve. Throw in a mega-rich Romanian count, his glamorous countess and an enigmatic British army officer and the scene is set for an entertaining mystery.

About the author

Harriet Steel

Harriet Steel is the author of several historical novels including Becoming Lola and Salvation. Her work has appeared in national newspapers and magazines. She is passionate about history and blogs about it at harrietsteel.blogspot.co.uk

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