‘A #mystery set mainly in 1986 in a small forgotten American steel town.’ Rosie’s #Bookreview of Lies In Bone by @NatalieCSymons

Lies in BoneLies in Bone by Natalie Symons

4 stars

Lies in Bone is a mystery set mainly in 1986 in a small forgotten American steel town.

The story opens with a scene from 1963;  brothers Chuck and Danny are out on their bicycles on a foggy Halloween night. The fog is so thick that they get separated.

Twenty-three years later, in 1986, single father Chuck is bringing his two daughters Frank and Boots back to his childhood town because his mother has cancer; he feels that they should be there for her. However, this isn’t a happy family reunion; the town is desolate after the steel mill closed and apart from fourteen churches there is little else. Chuck struggles to get work and spends too many nights out at bars.

When a child is found dead, Chuck is arrested; there have always been whispers around town about Chuck and the local police are desperate to solve this case and link it to other cold cases. Frank is the only one who believes Chuck is innocent, but no-one will listen to a teenager.

This is quite a bleak tale, but it does hold glimmers of hope ; Chuck’s invention ideas, Frank’s refusal to give up and the strong love from a neglected child called Bernie. There’s plenty of teenage angst and moments when Frank needs an outlet for all of the hurt and pain while she tries to protect her sister Boots. This story made me think about the ‘American dream’ ideology especially how real life, for some, is far from perfect. I became engrossed in the tale quite quickly, following Frank as she tried to save her family and hoping that someone would throw her a lifeline. It’s a good story and one that  I can happily recommend.

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Told by a tart-tongued young woman with a love of Bruce Springsteen, Lies in Bone is at once a mystery and coming-of-age tale fueled by dark secrets involving love, murder, and the truths worth lying for.

On Halloween 1963, eleven-year-old Chuck Coolidge and his brother Danny are lost in a toxic smog covering the steel town of Slippery Elm, Pennsylvania. When the smog lifts, half the town is sick and twenty people are dead. And Danny is missing.

Now, over twenty years later, Chuck’s teenage daughter Frank plots escape from this “busted and disgusted” town. When a murdered child is found in the river, investigators link the crime to the disappearance of Danny in ’63, and Frank’s life is turned upside down. In the face of her worst fears, she must uncover her family’s dark past if she wants to keep her sister Boots from the hands of The State. Led to discover the unimaginable truth about Danny’s disappearance, Lies in Bone culminates in a shocking eleventh-hour reveal and an emotionally charged finale.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #HistoricalDrama The Moment by Douglas Kennedy #TuesdayBookBlog

The MomentThe Moment by Douglas Kennedy

4 stars

The Moment is an historical drama. American travel writer Thomas Nesbitt admits that he runs away from his fears; however, when a box is delivered from Germany, past memories come rolling back.

1984: Thomas is in Berlin writing about what it is like in the West, how the Wall dominates the city and what it is like to cross through Checkpoint Charlie to East Germany. He recalls his freelance work for a local radio service which broadcasts programmes knowing that they can be picked up in East Germany.

It’s at the radio station that Thomas meets Petra, a woman accused of speaking out against the East German state. She was imprisoned then sent to West Germany in a prisoner exchange agreement. They fall in love and plan to get married even moving to America, but Petra’s past catches up with them and while the Americans deal with Petra, Thomas is sent back home.

It has taken me a while to finish this book; like its title I had my ‘moments’ with it. Some I enjoyed, finding myself engrossed for a few hours, while at other times, the slow pace of the story dragged. It’s definitely memorable, the attention to detail created wonderful pictures in my head, particularly the contrasts between West and East Germany at the time. Then later after the Wall came down, we read some of Petra’s reflections; later still, we hear from a next generation German, who finds it hard to imagine a wall and a diverse split over a nation now joined as one.

This story made me think about its messages as well as being a good piece of cold war fiction. I’m glad I read it and I particularly enjoyed the author’s notes in the back explaining his story process.

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Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced American writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine – in touch only with his daughter and still trying to reconcile himself to the end of a long marriage that he knew was flawed from the outset – he finds his solitude disrupted by the arrival, one wintry morning, of a box postmarked Berlin. The return address on the box – Dussmann – unsettles him completely. For it is the name of the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin – at a time when the city was cleaved in two, and personal and political allegiances were haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.

Refusing initially to confront what he might find in that box, Thomas nevertheless finds himself forced to grapple with a past he has never discussed with any living person – and in the process relive those months in Berlin, when he discovered, for the first and only time in his life, the full, extraordinary force of true love. But Petra Dussmann – the woman to whom he lost his heart – was not just a refugee from a police state, but also someone who lived with an ongoing sorrow beyond dreams… and one which gradually rewrote both their destinies.

In this, his tenth novel, Douglas Kennedy has written that rare thing: a love story as morally complex as it is tragic and deeply reflective. Brilliantly gripping, it is an atmospherically dense, ethically tangled tale of romantic certainty and conflicting loyalties, all set amidst a stunningly rendered portrait of Berlin in the final dark years before The Wall came down.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Spy #Thriller THE MERCENARY by @paulvidich

The MercenaryThe Mercenary by Paul Vidich

4 stars

The Mercenary is a spy thriller set in Russia during the 1980s and involves the complicated attempt to smuggle out an important KGB informer.

Alex Garin is sent to Moscow to make the deal and bring the man over; one of the key factors of this story is that Garin was previously involved in another extraction attempt which failed. Placing Garin in a similar high profile situation just a few years after the first, bothered me; would the Russians not pick him up quickly? I expected the cage to close in around Garin far more quickly than it did.

In contrast, I liked the setting and there were plenty of good descriptions about life in Russia, for both Russians and embassy workers; the cold temperatures, the shortages and the knowledge that neighbours could turn informer at any moment, felt quite real. A couple of times I thought that the author watered down the tension by over explaining a situation, but these were only minor, and I did like the ending.

So a good thriller in this genre, not the best that I’ve read, but still a solid story.

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Moscow, 1985. The Soviet Union and its communist regime are in the last stages of decline, but remain opaque to the rest of the world—and still very dangerous. In this ever-shifting landscape, a senior KGB officer—code name GAMBIT—has approached the CIA Moscow Station chief with top secret military weapons intelligence and asked to be exfiltrated. GAMBIT demands that his handler be a former CIA officer, Alex Garin, a former KGB officer who defected to the American side.

The CIA had never successfully exfiltrated a KGB officer from Moscow, and the top brass do not trust Garin. But they have no other options: GAMBIT’s secrets could be the deciding factor in the Cold War.

Garin is able to gain the trust of GAMBIT, but remains an enigma. Is he a mercenary acting in self-interest or are there deeper secrets from his past that would explain where his loyalties truly lie? As the date nears for GAMBIT’s exfiltration, and with the walls closing in on both of them, Garin begins a relationship with a Russian agent and sets into motion a plan that could compromise everything.

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The Mercenary: A Spy's Escape from Moscow by [Paul Vidich]

Rosie’s #BookReview Of #ComingOfAge Mystery THE MILK WAGON by Michael Hewes

The Milk WagonThe Milk Wagon by Michael Hewes

4 stars

The Milk Wagon is a coming-of-age mystery set in Gulfport Mississippi during 1986.

High school friends Matt, Mark and Hop befriend new boy Nate Mayes, who recently arrived in this small town. I liked how much of the story was written around Matt’s 1980 Suburban car which they nicknamed the Milk Wagon; it became as much of a character in the book as the boys themselves. Alongside the story of the boys’ friendship is an FBI investigation in the area about a money laundering case being run by doctors and pharmacists.

Short easy to read chapters dot back and forth between the two parts and it isn’t too long before the narratives become linked and the tension of the story increases, reaching a grand finale with a good twist.

As soon as the author introduced us to the school friends the story drew me in, as their mannerisms, actions and dialogue all felt real; teenage talk about cars, girls and sport flew naturally from the pages. I was less convinced with the money laundering events; the characters involved were harder to comprehend and were less convincing than the teenagers. However, this may be because when the second storyline was introduced, at chapter four, I was already hooked by the teenagers and was mildly grumpy about the pause in their story and the introduction to lots more characters.

The money laundering tale did grow on me and by the end I was invested in tying up the mystery and solving the case. But my favourites will always be Matt, Mark, Hop and Natt; their final school reunion looked set to be a particular high point which I would have been happy to attend.

Overall, a story about high school friendships and how good friends will always try to be there for each other.

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Book description

THE MILK WAGON is a coming of age thriller about friendship, redemption, and how the ties made during high school can last a lifetime.

For Matt Frazier, Jason “Hop” Hopkins, and Mark Ragone, 1986 was the year that changed everything, and it was the year that everything changed.

It was the year Matt fell in love.
It was the year Mark started a band.
It was the year Hop actually, kind of, but not really got a girlfriend.
And it was the year Nate Mayes disappeared.

Matt, Hop and Mark have been friends since elementary school. They played ball together, they hung out together, and they somehow managed to work their way through the awkward years of junior high together. Now, they are finally starting to come into their own as they prepare to start eleventh grade, but on the first day of school, a new kid named Nate Mayes arrives, and with him, a secret. Once the boys learn the horrifying truth, they take it upon themselves to try and make it right, and in so doing, set in motion a chain of events that have unexpected and life-altering consequences for everyone.

The Milk Wagon was there through it all.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of Cosy #Mystery HEART OF A RUNAWAY Girl by Trevor Wiltzen

Heart of a Runaway Girl (Mabel Davison, #1)Heart of a Runaway Girl by Trevor Wiltzen

3.5 stars

Heart Of A Runaway Girl is the first story in the Mabel Davison cosy mystery series. This story is set in a small mining town in Washington State during the 1980s, and revolves around the murder of a runaway girl followed by the wrongful arrest of her boyfriend.

Mabel Davison owns the town diner and motel. She works regular shifts in the diner, and believes that she knows just what customers are looking for when they enter her restaurant. She says that she can ‘read people’, which is why she is sure that the town sheriff has arrested the wrong man.  Thus, Mabel dons her amateur sleuthing hat and sets out to find the real murderer.

Mabel is a determined character who puts herself at risk multiple times in pursuit of justice. She leads a full and busy life as a single parent of two boys, and she is also raising her niece. The pace of the story skips along; I enjoyed the first two thirds particularly. The last third dragged a little and the end of the mystery was a little disappointing as much of it happened ‘off screen’. I thought that Mabel deserved more involvement with the final arrest after all her hard work.

Overall, a decent start to a cosy mystery series.

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Book description

In a 1980s mountain town fueled by the drug trade, a young couple gets into an argument at Mabel’s Diner. Then the teen girl winds up brutally murdered, and the black boyfriend automatically jailed. Haunted by the tragedy, big-hearted, big-haired, single mom and waitress, Mabel Davison steps in and asks questions few want answered. But she’s unprepared for the secrets she uncovers, and now more lives may be destroyed, including her own.

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Coming Of Age #YA set in 1980s #Portsmouth Lucky Star by @1HollyCurtis #TuesdayBookBlog

Lucky StarLucky Star by Holly Curtis

4.5 stars

Lucky Star is a coming of age, young adult novel, set in a 1980s Portsmouth council estate.

Sixteen year old Ben Somerset is about to leave school, but like so many young people, then and today, he doesn’t know what he might want to do. Currently he mixes with a colourful collection of friends and acquaintances. They meet, most nights, outside a community centre, discussing clothes, music, girls and life.

The author paints a realistic picture for those on the cusp of adulthood; there are dalliances with drugs, underage drinking, theft and bullying. With the opportunities of the world before them, what directions will the friends all take and why?

I liked this author’s style, the dialogue was well written, and the characters were easy to identify with, especially by their nicknames. This made them feel like genuine teenagers; children frequently give each other nicknames, which I think it is one of life’s constants.

As the book is set almost forty years ago, Ben and his friends used landline telephones, listened to vinyl records and had the freedom to go off for hours without their parents being at the end of a mobile phone. But once you strip away the clothes and accessories, how different were these kids from those of different generations? Ben played a song he loved, over and over. He wanted to dress like his friends or the ones he admired. He experienced the heady feelings of first love. He succumbed to peer pressure. He went out drinking. What I found interesting was that these elements could all be relevant to more than one era of teens who are balancing on the edge of adulthood.

Overall, a very good piece of work suited to this genre, but also very readable for those who were, perhaps themselves, teenagers in the 80s.

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Book description

Teenager Ben Somerset has three great loves in his life: Sherlock Holmes, designer clothes and a certain song by Madonna. And then Susie appears.

Set in England in 1984 Lucky Star tells of Ben’s introduction to the world of shoplifting, music, politics, love and heartbreak.

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