Cathy has been reading Trouble In Nuala by Harriet Steel
The story is set in 1930’s Ceylon when it was still a British colony. Inspector Shanti de Silva has left the big, bustling city of Columbo behind with no regrets. He and his English wife, Jane, an ex governess, have settled in the much more peaceful town of Nuala where de Silva runs the local police station with the aid of Sergeant Prasanna and Constable Nadar.
De Silva is called to a meeting with Archie Clutterbuck, the assistant government agent, at his home and asked to investigate a plantation owner who allegedly flogged one of his workers. Charles Renshaw, the plantation owner, is opinionated and unpopular, with a younger, vulnerable wife and stepson. The investigation progresses at a steady pace and as the case evolves there’s a death which turns out to be suspicious. De Silva refuses to be less than efficient regardless of Clutterbuck wanting the case solved with the minimum of fuss. Perhaps, after all, life isn’t going to be as restful as De Silva hoped.
The author’s representation of Ceylon and evocative descriptions conjure up immediate images; the weather, food, scenery and social climate are evident. I can just see de Silva’s sitting in splendour in his pride and joy, the Morris Cowley 2-seater Tourer.
‘Rickshaws darted between bullock carts laden with sacks of rice; piles of bananas and coconuts; and mounds of other fruits and vegetables. Stalls offering cooked food lined the dusty streets and passers-by stopped to purchase bowls of curry and rice or paper cornets of sticky sweetmeats.’
An enjoyable, well written cozy mystery with a cast of well defined characters. Shanti de Silva is an engaging and wonderfully drawn protagonist. A man of principle, practical and not averse to following his own instincts if the situation warrants. The wonderful setting sets the story apart and allows a look back at a fascinating way of life and culture. I love the relationship between De Silva and Jane and look forward to the next book.
This is a very readable mystery with a romantic sub-plot, involving the feud between two brothers when bad boy-turned-multi-millionaire-philanthropist Dane Carlisle returns to his small home town and finds that the residents have long memories. Dane has been widowed for two years; his adopted son, Jesse, arrives with him, and soon becomes interested in clearing his father’s name. This is all set against the backdrop of Eclipse Lake, where Dane meets dedicated photographer Ellie.
By far the best illustrated character is Jonah Carlisle, who did everything right but ended up with so little in comparison with his brother, and can’t forgive Dane for neglecting their late mother. The complicated relationship between the brothers comes over well, and Jonah’s bitterness, resentment and loneliness is most convincing. Other characters, I found less so. Through meeting a businessman who believed in him, Dane metamorphosed from a juvenile delinquent, convict and hobo into this golden success story with the outlook of a puritan priest, who looks like a Greek god but lives a celibate life (I know he was heartbroken when his wife died, but it still didn’t ring true) and, when he falls in love with Ellie (who adores him too, and is much more real), behaves like a 1950s Mills and Boon hero without the passion.
Then there are the teenagers (aged 16-18) who don’t drink, swear, or even smoke the odd dodgy cigarette, and hang out in ice cream parlours. Jesse behaves like a truculent 14 year old but the next minute is using the vocabulary, reasoning powers and articulation skills of one much older and more experienced. I did wonder if this is specifically written for the ‘clean read’ market, in which case I suppose many of these observations would be considered plus points!
Having said all that, it is a well thought out plot, I enjoyed reading it for the most part, and I’ll give full marks for the end twist which I totally didn’t guess – something that always impresses me. Mae Clair writes well, I just think that more realistic characterisation would make all the difference; for instance, if Dane had just cleaned up his act rather than become a dynamic, super-rich Chris Hemsworth/Josh Holloway lookalike. Then, I could have believed in him.
Cathy has been reading The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello
Caroline Thompson, a suburban mother of two, keeps as much distance as she can from the town’s gossipmongers, and their insatiable need to dig into everyone’s lives. The latest craze is googling everyone to see what they can uncover to add fuel to their nasty gossip. They could only find three hits for Caroline, which initially is reassuring, but gives Caroline the idea to google her maiden name, which no-one in town knows. As she scrolls through hit after hit, what she finds terrifies her. How can she not remember such momentous and life changing episodes from her past.
What follows are Caroline’s attempts to piece together the explosive information Google has thrown up. The more she uncovers, the worse it gets. It appears her nice, comfortable life is built on a foundation of shocking lies and deception. As Caroline becomes ever more confused and panic stricken, her behaviour becomes more and more outlandish. I honestly couldn’t see where this was going or how it could be resolved. There’s plenty of suspense and drama from Caroline’s point of view but I couldn’t understand why nobody was picking up on her weird behaviour and the fact she’s unravelling before their eyes. Or why Caroline wasn’t confiding in her husband, her best friend, someone who could offer her support.
All becomes clear in part two! A completely unexpected and unusual twist … and then some, with another surprise development at the very end. This is a very imaginative and unconventional telling of a story within a story. A couple of little niggles for me were over description in parts and Caroline’s thought processes which became quite repetitive, but could, of course, be intentional to show how she is gradually becoming more deeply disturbed. That said, it’s a very unpredictable read with many layers and an obsessive protagonist who has to be in control.
Liz has been reading Trouble In Nuala by Harriet Steel
Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel
Trouble in Nuala is the first in a series of investigations by Inspector Shanti de Silva in colonial Ceylon. Although a Sri Lankan himself, Shanti is married to Jane, an Englishwoman whom he had met after she came to the island as a governess. They mix in the “best” social circles of Nuala, up in the hills far from the busy city of Colombo. An experienced policeman, he may feel frustrated by his junior police officers and by the patronising attitude of Clutterbuck, the assistant government agent, but he is determined to investigate all cases without preference.
Although mainly concerned with minor offences such as neglected horses running wild, the sudden death of a bombastic, unpopular tea planter strikes de Silva as being suspicious, so he quietly makes inquiries into all the circumstances. The lonely widow and the planter’s stepson were not happy, the plantation was making a loss and a young lawyer had recently accused the planter of mistreating his workers.
Interspersed with the gradual investigation is a delightful description of the beauty of Sri Lanka and of the pretentious social life of the British community living there in the 1930s. Shanti and Jane have a respectful relationship based on love and consideration, so he willingly eats cucumber sandwiches when he would much prefer a spicier snack.
This gentle, intelligent policemen could well become renowned for his careful and thoughtful approach to crime in an enthralling environment. A very enjoyable and relaxing book to read. I look forward to his next investigation.
Noelle has been reading Who Killed Vivien Morse? by Diana J Febry
Who Killed Vivien Morse? is the fourth book in the DCI Peter Hatherall series. I haven’t read the other three, but the author has done a great job making this a stand-alone book.
This is what I would call a traditional English mystery. It opens with a complaint to the nattily dressed DCI Hatherall by a neighborhood busybody, who reports seeing a man looking like a Druid and accompanied by a dog peeking into the windows of houses in her neighborhood. Hatherall’s interaction with her is humorous but is quickly leavened by the discovery of a young social worker, the Vivien Morse of the title, battered to death in a local wood.
The reader is quickly introduced to the main players in the action: Hatherall’s partner, Fiona; Ellen, a disturbed, strange young woman who was Vivien’s last client contact; Nigel Morse, Vivian’s husband – a prime suspect but with an alibi; Jane Salt, Vivien’s boss, with whom Vivien has publicly argued; Lucy and Ian, Ellen’s parents, whose marital relationship is strained, and Kathy, Ellen’s aunt.
We learn that Ellen’s problems date from being run down by her boyfriend, Robbie Creer, who is serving time in prison for fraud. Creer is discovered to have links to each of these characters as the yarn unwinds, including Dick Death (pronounced Deeath), the hulking, sandal-wearing Druid-like man. I enjoyed the characters, although Dick Death, and his new, elderly girlfriend, Gladys, rather overpowered everyone else. Ellen, with clear mental issues, also stands out, with her occasional violent episodes and her attachment to a ragged doll she calls ‘Future,’ a replacement for Robbie’s baby which she lost in the accident.
There are a number of McGuffins cleverly placed to lead the reader, Hatherall and Fiona down various paths before the main path to the solution is discovered. The story is complex and the reader needs to pay close attention to figure out whodunit.
I loved the light humor of various parts of the book. What did become somewhat tedious after a while were the long, long dialogues between Peter and Fiona, not quite the give-and-take of real conversation. Nevertheless, the characters were human, with all the normal warts and foibles.
Judith has been reading Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins
BEDSIT THREE: A TALE OF MURDER, MYSTERY AND LOVE by SALLY JENKINS
Title: Bedsit Three: A Tale of Murder, Mystery and Love
Author: Sally Jenkins
Started: Sunday 4th September 2016
Finished: Wednesday 14th September 2016
Bedsit Three focuses on the lives of the tenants of Vesey Villa, a collection of bedsits. There is a new tenant in Bedsit Three, Ian, after the old tenants – Ignatius Smith and his girlfriend – suddenly vanish from the town. Ian wants to prove himself as a father to his son, Marcus, and finds solace in his neighbour Sandra, and her daughter Halifax. However, the tenants find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery case when it is revealed that neither Ignatius or his girlfriend have been seen for a very long time…
I found Bedsit Three very engrossing and easy to read, which I think is important for books in the mystery and thriller genres.
The prologue was really well-written; this was a pleasant surprise for me, as I am notorious for skipping the prologue because they never tend to be quite scruffy and don’t add anything to the plot. However, this does not apply to Jenkin’s book!
I felt the plot flowed at a reasonable pace, although some of Sandra’s scenes at college or Ian’s scenes with Jo felt somewhat of a side-track. My favourite parts of Bedsit Three were the first person narration scenes with Ignatius – you could really see inside his head, and understand his mental process. In addition, with a name like Ignatius, it’s immediately clear that he’s going to be a creepy character.
Speaking of names, I didn’t like the names Ignatius or Halifax – I know they were meant to be original and had special meanings, but I still just thought they were very weird – especially in contrast to more mundane character names like Ian.
My only concerns with Bedsit Three are the title and the use of description.
I think the title is too long (Bedsit Three would more than suffice), and at times the description of mundane items or events was far too detailed. For example, something as ordinary as a cup of tea might be described as ‘a warm, ceramic mug of delicious brown tea’, which doesn’t sound very genuine.
All in all, the plot was dramatic, the climax was dramatic and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Suraya has been reading Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley
Trust Me I lie
This review is written as part of Rosie’s review team and I received the book for free.
This novel starts predictably when the hero, policeman Ben, and heroine, heiress Milla stumble across each other on a stormy night. She is on the road, wet and bedraggled.
‘He hit the brakes and then he hit her.’ (11)
This is policeman Ben’s first encounter with Milla.
He was fuming over his tense meeting with his ex-wife and distracted. It all sounds familiar right down to his seeing through Milla’s lies and not trusting her. And as always the case in these scenarios the feeling is mutual.
She steals from him and disappears. Meantime, he is called to investigate the murder of Camilla Graham who is laid out in a four poster bed dressed in a gown by Dior. When he is told the victim is Camilla Graham, he knows this is not true, or is it? If this is Camilla Graham who was the woman he met on the road and took in for the night? The story twists and turns as Ben tries to unravel the true identities of Camilla, Kiran and Milla. They are related but how?
The plot twists and turns, drawing on events eighteen years before and weaving them into the present raising questions about Camilla Graham’s family as it does. It has pace and the characters are well drawn.
And of course the right two people get together at the end although at times it seems this could never happen, giving the reader a reason to keep turning the page.
I recommend it as a read to escape life’s mundane realities. After all who can resist a troubled but fully independent heiress who does not do a thing she is told and in doing so takes big risks all in the name of finding out who killed her mother and family.
She is sharp witted, intelligent and a match for senior police officer Ben Taylor.
Mystery Author Releases New Book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series: A Long Ways from Home
Author Mike Martin is pleased to announce the release of his new book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, A Long Ways from Home. This new mystery continues the adventures of Sgt. Windflower as he tries to solve crime and experience the joy and the sadness of life in small Newfoundland communities.
“A weekend visit to picturesque Newfoundland by a large crew of outlaw bikers leaves behind another mess for Sgt. Windflower to clean up. This time he’s facing violence, murder, mystery and intrigue. This adventure has Windflower questioning everything he thought he knew. There are troubles on the home front, cutbacks in the policing budget, old friends leaving and new ones not quite here yet. Windflower is seeking to find answers in territory that is both dangerous and unfamiliar.
This instalment in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series has our hero dashing all over the beautiful little island of Newfoundland. Along the way he never wavers in his pursuit of justice. But he stills tries to find a way to enjoy the natural beauty that lays all around him, and to bring out the best from everybody he meets.
A Long Ways from Home is about more than just homicides or the dirty dealings of outlaw bikers. It is also about helping people and communities face up to and overcome new and very difficult challenges. Windflower relies on his friends and allies, including some four-legged ones, to help him and them find the answers. He also discovers that we are never really alone, even when we are a long ways from home.”
Book one of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, The Walker on the Cape was published in 2012. Book two, The Body on the T was published in 2013. Book three, Beneath the Surface) was published in 2014. Book four, A Twist of Fortune was published in 2015.
Book Details: A Long Ways from Home By Mike Martin Publisher: Friesen Press ISBN: 978-1-4602-9200-6 Pages: 378 Genre: Mystery
About The Author: Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine. The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. The Body on the T was the second book, Beneath the Surface is the third installment in this series, and A Twist of Fortune is the fourth and newest book.
Olga has been reading Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley
Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley. Mysteries, fairy tales, false identities and an unlikely couple.
I am writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review and to Rosie for the opportunity.
I try to read in a variety of genres (it’s good to keep the brain on its toes, so to speak, and since I joined Rosie’s team I’ve been tempted by the varied offerings of titles I might not have come across otherwise). But whilst for some genres I have to prepare myself and be in the mood, mysteries and thrillers I am able to read in most circumstances.
I liked the title of the novel (I don’t like liars, but an honest liar… well, I prefer that to people who swear blindly they’re telling the truth when it’s obvious they are not) and when I read it was set in the UK and it involved a family whose business was to publish books (and pretty fancy fairy tales editions at that) I knew I had to try it. And it does deliver in spades.
The story is told in the third person from the two main characters’ points of view, Milla Graham (although if she’s really Camilla Graham or her cousin, or somebody else entirely is a big part of the puzzle), a reporter who writes features about musicians and musical events, and Ben Taylor, a detective, divorced, father of a young daughter, and a man always on a mission to rescue somebody (especially damsels in distress, even if they don’t want to be rescued). There are other fragments, in italics, also in the third person, that narrate the event at the heart of the mystery (the night when the Graham’s old house burned down and three children and their mother died), that took place eighteen years before the rest of the novel. The point of view these other fragments are narrated from is not clear as we read them (other than it is somebody who witnessed what happened) but by the end of the novel we have a clear picture of what really happened (although we will have been tripped and wronged in our assumptions many times along the way).
Both main characters are likeable in different ways. Ben is handsome, honest and a good guy, who, as many female characters tell him, seems to suffer from rescue fantasies. He lives in a chocolate box cottage and he meets the other protagonist in a traumatic manner (he runs her over) in the first chapter. His car ends up in a ditch and as he has no other option he invites the stranger, a young woman, to his house. She disappears with some of his money early next morning but she does not disappear from his life. At first sight Ben appears to be a type of character we’re very familiar with (a handsome detective somewhat disillusioned by his job and with his family life in tatters) but his immediate attraction and sympathy for Milla makes him do out of character things that surprise others around him as much as himself. And we get to discover some surprising things about him too.
Milla is, without discussion, quite unique. She lives hand to mouth, has adopted the identity of the dead daughter of a very rich family (it made me think of the stories about Anastasia, the Romanov tsarina who was supposedly still alive), and it’s difficult to know what her real motivations are. Does she really believe she’s Camilla Graham? Is it all part of a hoax to get money? Is she trying to help Patrick Graham, the man who was sent to prison for the murder of his wife (and the real Camilla’s mother)? Is she the cousin of the family now trying to create confusion? Or is she a fantasist who does not know what the truth is any longer? She is determined, resourceful and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. Whatever that might be. And she is open about her lies (and does surprise herself when she doesn’t lie).
The novel features charming English towns, an old mansion that has become a gothic castle in ruins, murders staged to imitate the illustrations of famous fairy tales (with designer clothing and four poster beds also thrown in), a murderer dressed and made-up like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, mysterious bracelets, and a world of fairy tales that turns very dark.
The main characters are fascinating and likeable and you can’t help but root for them, no matter how outrageous their behaviours. If you stopped to think about it, some of their actions definitely stretch one’s belief, but the pace is so dynamic and the story so intriguing and surprising, that you keep trying to guess what will happen next and enjoy the ride. The writing is descriptive and vivid and one feels a part of the story, or at least a very close witness of the events. Although the crimes described are horrendous, there is no gross attention to the details of the violence, no CSI-style descriptions, and although not a cozy novel, it’s not a hard-edged thriller either. Ah, and there is romance but no explicit sex scenes (or implicit even).
I had a great time reading the novel, enjoyed the satisfying ending and my only disappointment is that being a big fairy tale fan I would have loved to get my hands on the wonderful illustrated volumes of fairy tales described in the novel but unfortunately it won’t be possible. I recommend it to readers of mysteries that prefer an involved story rather than a hard-edged scientific investigation in dark, urban and grittily realistic settings. If you love quirky characters, do not hesitate and give it a try. And I’ll be keeping an eye on Louise Marley’s work for sure.
Terry has been reading Poison Bay by Belinda Pollard
Poison Bay by Belinda Pollard
3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team
Poison Bay is a mystery/thriller set in a New Zealand wilderness setting. Eight old friends meet up ten years later to go on a ten day hike masterminded by one of the group, Bryan. Bryan has hidden motives in getting them all together, though, and the story gains in sinister overtones as the hike turns into a survival situation.
I love reading and watching anything about survival in adverse circumstances, and when I started this book I found the writing very clear and easy-readable. I could tell that the author has done her practical research very well. Alas, for me, the novel was lacking in depth and atmosphere. The eight hikers remained one dimensional throughout, their conversation being unrealistic and information heavy, with no difference in language used, speech patterns or style of communication, all those aspects that make a character work. I didn’t connect with any of them; the girls seemed to just cry and hug each other, mostly. I thought it seemed like a teen read, very clean, with women thinking badly of the one who sleeps with a man in the group, and the worst word anyone says is ‘hell’. It was all a bit ‘jolly hockey sticks’.
The narrative was exposition heavy, with lots of ‘telling not showing’, and no real sense of place.
It’s a fairly good plot, I did find myself wanting to know the outcome, I can’t fault the English or the presentation, and I appreciated the knowledge that had been used to make it feasible, but with little characterisation, or portrayal of how dark the situation really would have been, it didn’t really work for me, I’m afraid.