Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Olga reviews Psycological #thriller Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr.

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr.

40398725

This is not an easy book to categorise, and it could fit into a number of classifications, but it goes beyond the standard examples many of the readers of some of those genres are used to come across. When I heard about this book, my interest was piqued by several elements: the book features as one of its main characters a female therapist who has specialised in counselling war vets (many of them suffering from PTSD), and as a psychiatrist (and I did work with military personnel, although not from the US) I’m always intrigued by the literary portrayals of psychologists and psychiatrists and of mental health difficulties. There is a mystery/thriller element, and because I’m an eager reader (and writer) of those genres, I’m always keen to explore new authors and approaches. The novel also promised a close look at the US judicial system, and having studied criminology and the British Criminal Justice system, that aspect of the book was also intriguing. Could the novel deliver in so many levels?

Dr. Tessa Thorpe is an interesting character, and it seems that the author is planning to develop a series of novels around her. She is described as insightful and compassionate, with strong beliefs (anti-war), morals, and a trauma of her own. She is not the perfect professional, and at times her trauma affects her behaviour to a point that I thought would have got her into trouble if she were working in a different environment. We are not given full details of what has happened to her before, but the hints we get through the novel (where other characters in possession of that information refer to it) give us a fair idea. She is much better at dealing with others and understanding what moves them to act as they do than she is at dealing with her own issues, but that is a fairly realistic aspect of the book (although considering how insistent she is in getting others to talk about their difficulties, it is surprising none of the colleagues take her to task). What I was not totally convinced about was the fact that at some point she decides to support the vet going to trial accused of murder, and she leaves her practice and patients unattended for weeks. As she works in a private clinic and we only meet one of her patients, we don’t have sufficient information of her day-to-day tasks, and it’s quite possible that this is not a problem, but it felt counterintuitive to me. Tessa plays an central part in the plot in more ways than one, because although she is an expert in some aspects, she is totally new to what happens in other parts of the novel, like court procedures, and at those points she works as a stand-in for the readers, asking for clarifications and being walked through the process in detail.

The mystery and thriller elements, as I said, are dealt with differently to in many other books. The novel starts at an earlier point than many of the books that give advice to writers would recommend. It does not start in the middle of the action, or the crime (what the real crime is here is one of the main questions). We get the background to the events, down to the phone call to the police about a homeless man, which gets the ball rolling at the very beginning of the book. The police, who have been fed the wrong information, end up beating the man, a war-vet, to death. This causes a huge uproar, and we hear about the way the authorities try to sweep it all under the carpet, then the apparent revenge killing of the three policemen, the chase of a suspect, the hair-raising moment when he gives himself up (with some help from the doctor and others), and then we move onto the court case. There are moments where the book leans towards the police procedural, and we get plenty of details about the physical evidence, the investigation and those involved, we witness interrogations, we are privileged to information even the police don’t have, we get red herrings, and dead ends. The ending… there is a twist at the end, and although some might suspect it is coming, I was so involved in the court case at that point that I had almost forgotten that we did not know who the guilty party was.

I think this is one of the books I’ve read in recent times that best manages to bring to life a US court case, without sparing too many details and at the same time making it gripping. I will confess that the defense attorney, Nathaniel Bodine, is my favourite character, one of those lawyers who will happily cross the line for their client, and he seems, at times, a much better psychologist (and manipulator) than the doctor is. The judicial process is realistically reflected and at times it reads as if it were a detailed film or TV script, with good directions and fantastic dialogue.

And, we also follow the deliberations of the jury, in a few chapters that made me think of Twelve Angry Men, a play I remember watching many years back, although in this case we have a more diverse jury (not twelve men and not all Caucasian) and a more complex case. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the novel as well, and I could clearly see the interaction between the sequestered jury in my mind’s eye. (It would make a great film or series, as I have already suggested).

The story is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator that at times shows us the events from the point of view of one of the characters, mostly from Tessa’s perspective, but at times from others, like her co-workers or members of the police force. At some points, the story is told from an external and fairly objective perspective (like the jury deliberations); although at times we glimpse the personal opinions of that unknown narrator. I know readers dislike “head-hopping”, but I was never in any doubt about whose point of view I was reading, and the alternating perspective helped get a more rounded view of events and characters. Although the style of writing is factual and to the point (some of the descriptions reminded me of police reports, in their matter-of-factness), that does not mean the book fails to produce an emotional reaction on the reader. Quite the opposite. Rather than emphasising the drama by using over-the-top prose, the author lets the facts and the characters’ actions talk for themselves, and that is much more effective, in my opinion.

I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a mystery/thriller/police procedural novel which does not obey by the rules and is keen to engage readers in controversy and debates that go beyond a standard genre novel. (The author explains he was inspired to write this book by an incident not dissimilar to the death of the veteran at the hands of the cops at the beginning of the novel). The novel goes into more detail than most readers keen on those genres will be used to, and also follows the events from the very beginning to the very end. This is not a novel only interested in thrilling readers by highlighting the action scenes and ignoring the rest. Readers who always feel there are aspects of a story missing or underdeveloped will love this book, and also those who like complex characters (plenty of grey areas here) and a story that lives beyond the page. I also see book clubs enjoying a great discussion after reading this book, as there is much to debate and ponder. An accomplished novel and the first of a series that we should keep a close eye on.

Book description

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge? Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. N Lombardi Jr. is the author of compelling and heartfelt novel The Plain of Jars.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Advertisements

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction #Romance ONE? by @JLCAuthor

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading One? By Jennifer L. Cahil

One? by [Cahill, Jennifer L.]

“One” is a light hearted, easy read, set in 2005. The first of a trilogy, this retro contemporary novel will remind you of the simpler life of work, friends and relationships in the “noughties.” Focused on Penelope, a 28-year-old investment banker, we share her search for a significant relationship while maintaining a high-powered job and enjoying time with her friends. In parallel we meet Zara, her young house-mate, newly arrived from the country and struggling with London life.

We also encounter Charlie, a musician, who was at University with Penelope and also shares their house; Richard, an annoying ex-Uni friend of conspicuous wealth and Alyx, an irresistible, handsome young lawyer, who travels widely with a successful pop group.  The fact that both Alyx and Richard own castles in Scotland is hard to believe and it is no wonder that Zara feels out of her depth amongst such an affluent group.

Each of these young people are looking for good relationships and successful careers but juggling these is not easy and we see the possibility of Penelope being dragged into the life of a stay-at-home wife and mother. It is clear that in the last 14 years women’s roles have moved on.  It is easier to identify with Zara and encouraging to see her increased confidence as she learns to navigate the underground, finds a new job and gains friends.  The books conclusion is dramatic, leaving the reader longing to know how the next few years will pan out for this colourful group.

Book description

It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi.
Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual. Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At twenty-eight she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming. Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness. Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future. One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

One? by [Cahill, Jennifer L.]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #crimefiction Hometown Boys by Mary Maddox @Dreambeast7 @ryderswriters

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Hometown Boys by Mary Maddox

42846943

4.5 out of 5 stars

I liked this book a lot.  It’s listed under crime/mystery and women sleuths, and the plot is intricate, convincing and interesting, but it was the characters and relationships between them that kept me turning the pages without being tempted to skip-read.

Kelly Durrell returns to her hometown of Morrisson in Illinois when her aunt and uncle are brutally murdered, supposedly by her ex-boyfriend, Troy.  Although he has confessed, some people think there is more going on behind the scenes, and that Troy was merely a hired hit-man.  This storyline is interspersed with complications within Kelly’s own family; gradually, the two intertwine.

The book begins with the murder, when Troy is egged on, and it is clear that others had an interest in what he is about to do, but as the story unravels it becomes clear that there is far more to it.  Mary Maddox paints the picture of claustrophobic, small-town life so well, from the depressing existence of Kelly’s blinkered mother, to the criminal trailer trash, to the old schoolfriend who wanted to be a model but is now an overweight housewife.  In Morrisson, everyone knows everyone else’s business and, more problematically, makes immediate and often uninformed judgements about it.

This is the sequel to Dark Room, which I read and reviewed for Rosie’s Book Review Team back in 2016, i.e., so long ago that I might as well not have read it (I have a shocking memory), but this did not hamper my enjoyment or understanding of the plot.  There are a few instances in which it is clear that there was a book preceding this one, but enough information is given, in a concise fashion, for there to be no doubt about what is going on.  It might have been a good idea to put a recap in the front of the book, though, all the same.

The novel has a neat ending, with all threads tied up except one, that is left dangling…. for Book 3?  Nice one, I recommend.

Book description

Sometimes going home is the most dangerous thing you can do.

Junkie burnout Troy Ingram murders an elderly couple outside small-town Morrison, Illinois. He’s supposed to make it look like a robbery, but there’s so much blood he panics and flees. When he’s caught by police, he falls back on Plan B: tell everyone who will listen his motive was revenge on the Durrell family.

See, twenty years ago, Kelly Durrell broke his heart and ruined his life.

When Kelly returns to Morrison for the funerals, leaving her life in Boulder still packed in boxes and her relationship with detective Cash Peterson in its infancy, local gossip is quick to reach her. Troy’s story doesn’t make sense, but everyone in town seems happy to blame Kelly.

She can’t even turn to her family for consolation: she and her mother get in an argument every time they talk, her dad doesn’t want to make waves, and her cousins are too busy fighting over their inheritance to care about anything else.

But Troy’s lawyer, Lizzy D’Angelo, is sure someone forced Troy to commit the murders, and that Kelly is the key to finding out who. With Lizzy’s help, Kelly starts digging. Soon she discovers just how many secrets a small town can hide.

Can Kelly shine a light in her hometown’s dark corners without getting herself and her family killed?

Hometown Boys is a smart, tension-filled thriller that will keep you riveted until the surprising, satisfying end.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #shortstory CALL DROPS by @john_f_leonard

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Call Drops by John F Leonard

36767177

I won’t keep you guessing, I loved this story. After reading several longish novels in a similar genre, I fancied a break. And what better break from reading than reading something completely different?

I had read some great reviews of another one of Leonard’s novellas (also from the Dead Boxes Archive series) from members of the review team and knew I was in for a treat.

The story starts innocuously enough. An old man of means, Vincent Preece, (he used to have a business, one of the early businesses in mobile phones, and he sold it making a big profit) who likes to go to second-hand shops and car-boot sales finds something rather unusual and impossible to resist for him. It looks like an old mobile phone, but he does not recognise the model and cannot find any indication of how it works. Still, he has to have it.

If, like me, you loved the old Friday the 13th TV series with its creepy objects, or other similar stories (including some of the films in the Conjuring series), you will have guessed by now that things are going to take a turn for the interesting. And they do.

I don’t want to spoil the read, but let’s say the phone does not keep silent for long, and the atmosphere gets creepier and darker as it progresses. The story, told in the third person but almost totally from Vincent’s point of view, gets deeper and deeper into the protagonist’s psyche. When we meet him, he is a lonely man, somewhat embittered and opinionated (although he keeps those opinions to himself), who has suffered losses in his life, from his business and his cat, to his wife and daughter, but he seems settled and has learned to enjoy the little things in life. He is a keen and witty observer, has a quick mind, and a sharp sense of humour. I am not sure I would say she is the most sympathetic character I’ve read about, but he comes across as a grumpy but amusing old man, and his wit and the plot are more than enough to keep us engaged and turning the pages. If you’re a reader of the genre, you’ve probably guessed that things are not as clear-cut as they seem, but I won’t give you any specific details. You’ll have to read it yourselves.

Is it a horror story? It is not a scary story that will make you jump (or at least I don’t think so), but there are some horrifying scenes in it, graphically so (although no people are involved), and they’ve put some pictures in my mind that will probably remain there for a long time, but it is more in the range of the darker The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents type of stories than something that will have you screaming out loud. If you read the description of the series, you’ll get a good sense of it, and the epilogue and the closing warning to the reader are very well done and reminded me of both these TV programmes.

The writing style is crisp and to the point, and the author manages to create a credible character with recognisable personality traits despite the briefness of the story. There are also moments when the writing reaches beyond functional storytelling, as if the character had dropped his self-protective shell and his stiff attitude and was talking from the heart.

Here, talking about his wife and daughter:

Their departure had left Vincent mystified and empty. As if the marrow had been sucked out of him. Hard to stand with hollow bones.

But also:

However liberal you tried to be, some folk were simply a waste of good organs. There was no denying it.

I won’t talk about the ending in detail. There is a twist, and although some readers might have their suspicions, I think it works well, and I enjoyed it.

I recommend this book to people who like dark and creepy reads, have a twisted sense of humour, and don’t mind some horrifying scenes. If you love The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents and are looking for a short and quick-paced read, give it a try. Perhaps we don’t need Dead Boxes’ objects in our lives, but we definitely need more of their stories.

Book description

Vincent likes nothing more than rootling round second-hand shops in search of the interesting and unusual. Items that are lost and forgotten.
Why not? He needs the diversion. Time on his hands and money to burn. His life is affluent and empty. Little on the horizon and memories tinged bittersweet.
That’s all about to change. He’s about to find something that is perhaps better left unfound.

CALL DROPS is a darkly swirling mix of horror and mystery that will stay with you long after the reading is done. It’ll maybe make you think twice about impulse buying, those moments when you simply must have something, even though you don’t need it.
It might cause you to look again at the apparently mundane and everyday …and possibly, just possibly, wonder at what twisted marvels lurk within your mobile phone.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Call Drops: A Horror Story by [Leonard, John F]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social drama The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

42482664

I had not read the preceding book by this author, also set in 1970s Australia, but based on a review by another member of Rosie’s book review team, I decided to delve into this one, The Swooping Magpie, purchasing the book for review.

Having lived through the 1970s sexual revolution, the core theme of the book was one I was intimately familiar with, and my memories heightened the tension and my connection to the unfolding story.

Lindsay Townsend, a beautiful and popular sixteen year old high school student, comes from a home where her father beats her and her mother ignores her. Her teenage hormones fuel her irresistible urge to attract one of her teachers, Jon Halliwell. Much to her surprise, he returns her interest and their interaction blossoms into a physical relationship. As a result of their affair, Lindsay finds herself pregnant. Pregnancy was a huge fear of teenage girls at that time, and parents took a variety of steps to deal with babies conceived out of wedlock. Lindsay’s parents take a truly drastic step and Lindsay is thrust into a world unimaginable to her – one of deprivation, bone-deadening work and dark despair.

While I found myself frustrated by Lindsay’s naiveté and stubbornness in the first part of the book, her strength of character in the face of horrible circumstances was impressive. She does indeed make lemonade from the lemons of her life, until about mid-book, when a truly terrible twist finally beats her down – and the reader along with her. Her trauma defines her future, when she and other women like her work to right the wrongs done to them. Thus the story ends with a message of hope.

The author uses first person to tell Lindsay’s story, which is very effective. The use of constant dialogue heightens the emotions and the tensions. The other young women who fill Lindsay’s world are each unique in their own way; the author does a marvelous job creating them. The anger this book rekindled in me, derived from the Jon Halliwell character, was my anger at that time: men escaped all responsibility, leaving the women to pay the price. The author definitely achieved that goal! While the story is set in Australia, its theme is universal.

I highly recommend this book, especially for younger women who needs to recognize how far we have come.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

42482664

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery Picture Not Perfect by @dehaggerty #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Picture Not Perfect by D.E. Haggerty

43665483

In Picture Not Perfect we are reacquainted Terri, school librarian, and Melanie, school guidance counselor. Melanie’s ex, Owen, is trying his best to rekindle their relationship but Melanie is reluctant. Her over abundance of energy and lack of consideration for others is down to her ADHD and make her a complex and sometimes irritating character. She is aware not many people can cope with her hyper personality and recklessness. Afraid of Owen’s reaction to her diagnosis, she prefers to keep him at arm’s length rather than be let down.

When creepy Alfred Schultz, a social sciences teacher at the school, is found dead, Melanie is in the frame for his murder. The police found photos of her at Schultz’s house and believe he’s been stalking her.

“But he wanted to know you. Was he stalking you?” Davis’ harsh tone was in direct contradiction with Meyer’s gentle enquiries.

[Quote] “Stalking me! If he were stalking me, you’d know about it because I would have filed a police report. Duh. I’m a guidance counselor. I know exactly what steps I need to take when I’m being harassed, which I wasn’t.” By the time she finished her tirade, she was nearly screaming. [Quote]

Melanie is determined to find the real murderer in order to get the police off her back, and draws Terri and new English literature teacher Pru, into her far fetched, madcap, and sometimes dangerous, schemes as she follows up on her suspicions and speculations. The friends manage to uncover more than they’d imagined but will the police believe them?

Being Melanie’s friend would tax many people but Terri especially, and Pru, take her at face value. Terri is used to her antics and Pru is learning fast. Owen’s doing his best to convince Melanie he’s in it for the long haul, but she’s not easy to convince. There’s a good mix of characters and I enjoyed the chapter headings.

Picture Not Perfect is a light, fun cosy mystery, perfect for whiling away an hour or two.

Book description

A picture tells a story. But is it the truth?When the police find pictures of Melanie hanging up at her murdered colleague’s house, they’re convinced he was stalking her. Maybe she even killed him. Melanie was not being stalked! And she certainly didn’t kill her supposed stalker – as if. But Mel – always up for a bit of drama – jumps at the chance to go search for the real killer. When Mel’s ex-boyfriend, Owen, discovers her plans, he pulls out all the stops to ensure she’s safe and to win her back. No matter what happens with the murder investigation, he’s not letting her go. With the police setting their sights on Mel, he may need to jeopardize his own career on the police force to protect her. Will Mel find the real killer before the detectives arrest her for murder?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #shortstories The Sea Was A Fair Master by @CalvinDemmer

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

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

40033777

Summary:

23 short stories, or flash fiction as the style is known, the main themes of which are the darker sides of humanity, and dealing with the places where the visible and otherworld connect, and things break through.

Plot:

There are 23 short stories, some very short, and mainly in the horror genre. Given that the author has so short a time to build the tension, I found the writing to be terse, intense, and very well-crafted to bring about the desired atmosphere.

There is definitely an echo of the short-lived “Hammer House of Horrors” in these stories (A classic TV show at a time when people had recently purchased colour TV’s!). The stories draw you in immediately, the scene is quickly set, and each tale has a twist or two. Some highlights:

“On The Seventh Day” has a biblical-sounding title, and the tale bears out a sense of being Justice being meted out, an eye for an eye vengeance.

“Trashcan Sam” was a grisly peek into an underworld, and one I felt has depth enough that could be enlarged into a novella.

“The Snakes or the Humans” – a man has the power over every species of life – what decision will be made when priorities change?

“Hangman” was a dark look at a security man’s night-time rounds, and the things that go on in school after hours!

The eponymous story offers a cure for when you find yourself becalmed at sea with your Navy comrades.

There are some touching stories as well, the most shining example of this being “Yara”. Love is shown as a powerful emotion, more powerful than death, but so is revenge! However, most stories featuring the heart tends to have it being carved out of someone!!

What I Liked:

  • The writing was excellently paced.
  • The characterisation is classic short-story, with the barest outline. However, the author really created a memorable cast of characters.
  • There are no contrived endings – the author shows the horror genre real respect and, while short, every story delivers a superb punch.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Some (very few) of the stories reminded me of others that I had read before (e.g. Restrooms ending was a little like the Stephen King short Popsy, but I’m sure it this is only in my mind, and not intentional).
  • Some of the stories were too short!

Overall:

This is an excellent short story collection for the horror fan, and an intriguing entertaining read for the more mainstream reader. Unfortunately, you can read this over a couple of hours, and you are left wanting more! I really loved it, I felt the writing was crisp and succinct, and the author’s ability to generate compelling atmosphere with such an economy of words is deeply impressive.

Book description

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.

For the sea was a fair master.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

40033777

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #Shortstory DOGGEM by @john_f_leonard

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

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Doggem by John F. Leonard

43125253

Doggem, is a short story from John F Leonard and is a tale of a toy dog and dark deeds. I chose to read this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and received a copy from the author but that has not effected my review in any way.

In a bid to encourage literacy Mrs Snady encourages the pupils in her primary class to take the class toy dog, uninspiringly called Doggem, home for a week at a time. The child who has him in their possession is meant to document his time in their care. George Gould, age 5, is chosen to take him home for the whole of the summer holidays.

George’s parents, Cath and Tom, are taking him, and Doggem, to stay with his grandmother in her cottage in Jordemain Wood. However, it is clear that all is not well with the relationship between his parents and the grandmother, but she has asked to see her grandchild so the trip is on.

And this is where the story takes a darker turn as while Cath and Tom cook up a plan, a level of perception has been brought to Doggem by George’s abilities which, while hidden from his parents, have been spotted from afar by his grandmother.

Doggem gets to see and hear things he probably shouldn’t because no one suspects a toy dog and after what happens in the holidays things take an even more sinister turn when Doggem returns to school and life gets creepy for Mrs Snady as his powers increase.

This short story is very well written, thoroughly enjoyable and I’d highly recommend it to everyone who wants a fairly quick read. Excellent!

Book description

All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy.
They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school.
All they have to do in return is write his diary.
It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family.
Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary.
Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket.
He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence.
Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.
Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night.
And George?
Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.

DOGGEM is a spooky little tale about toy dogs and dark doings. A gently disturbing horror story. But beware, this charming cocktail of witchcraft, imagined folklore and paranormal fantasy might just bewitch you.
Not easy to pin down genre. Without doubt it has a certain heart-breaking beauty to it. Maybe it’s a modern fairytale. A scary one, flavoured with a dash of the occult, written for an adult audience. After all, fairy tales feature the supernatural and have a magical aspect to them.
They often have old cottages and eerie, unnerving woodland settings.
Wickedly enchanting women and innocent children.
Ancient evil and everyday greed.

Doggem is a short story, one in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
The Dead Boxes?
Some objects are frightening things and the Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category.
They can be easily overlooked. Ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. A mobile phone, a piece of art …a child’s plaything.
Take a closer look. You’ll see something unique.
You could very easily have one and not know it.
Exercise caution.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You might think you do, but you really don’t.
Believe me.

A Short Story.
From the Dead Boxes Archive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

43125253

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Chinese #Mystery The Balance Of Heaven And Earth by Laurence Westwood

Today’s team review is from Jessie, she blogs here https://behindthewillows.com

#RBRT Review Team

Jessie has been reading The Balance Of Heaven And Earth by Laurence Westwood

42413793

One might classify this book as an Ancient Chinese murder mystery, complete with a mysterious love interest, and, technically, it is.

Because the story does take place in ancient China (as in the year 1085 ancient) set in a remote border town of China near where the “barbarians” are still causing trouble.  And indeed the finding of a murderer is central to the plot line. And there is a handsome female of certain interest. However in reading it I would say it was much more about the new town’s magistrate finding his way through the moral and practical pit falls of guiding a city rather than the solving of a mystery.

“So officials grew to believe clerks were obstructive, and clerks grew to believe that officials were mostly tyrannical and impractical. That anything was ever achieved in China at all was a miracle.”

And while it was not what I would call action packed, the characters (even the minor ones) were excellently portrayed. They always called each other by their full names (a mouthful if your full name is Trainee Legal Secretary Li) but they all exuded their unique personalities with not a bit of wry humor sprinkled throughout so well, I couldn’t fault them a bit for it.

“I have never heard such nonsense! Every man needs a wife. How else is he to make good decisions?”

Would I recommend it? I would say this book is for the deep thinker and the history buff rather than one looking for a murder mystery and a love story but if that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out!

Book description

I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.

My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,

Magistrate Qian
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085

So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.

Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.

For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Black As She’s Painted by @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Black As She’s Painted by William Savage

42069989

Black as She’s Painted is the fifth book in the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries series by William Savage.  His other series is the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I will be honest and reveal I am a huge fan of William Savage and have enjoyed both of these mystery series. However, even though I come from a medical background, the Ashmole Foxe books are slight favorites, possibly because of the charismatic, unconventional and quirky protagonist.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller with his own shop, run largely and profitably for him by an entrepreneurial widow, Mrs. Crombie. Foxe is a dandy and an unrepentant hedonist, a lover of beautiful women in his bed, fine wine and a surfeit of good food, but despite all these social faults, he has solved several other mysteries for Norwich’s political and mercantile elite. Thus it is natural for him to be approached for assistance when a rich goldsmith turned banker Samuel Mellanus goes missing. Almost immediately there is further news: the banker’s wife, who has a promiscuous reputation, has been found naked and strangled to death in her own bed.

A group of politicians/merchants need Foxe to find Mellanus, since having a missing banker is catastrophic for a bank and its money, but they also need him to discover how thousands of pounds have been stolen from the bank, without anyone noticing they were missing…until now. Add to this conundrum is the fact that Mellanus had closed his gold smithing business for no apparent reason, letting all his workers go, and Foxe discovers that coins and jewelry were taken from Mr. and Mrs. Mellanus by their pretty maid Maria.

Can Foxe find Mellanus and the missing money? Was Eleanor Mellanus as black as she was painted, or was it simply her misfortune to be both desirable and dumb, used and betrayed by the men she welcomed to her bed?

To solve these crimes, Foxe will use his considerable investigative powers and intellect, plus the help of characters introduced in previous books: a motley crew of street children, Mistress Tabby – a so-called Cunning Woman or folk healer, who practices folk medicine and magic, and a sea captain, Captain Brock, who has just returned from his honeymoon.

As usual, the author wraps the solution to these crimes in layer upon layer of hard- won information, much of it not useful at the time of its uncovering, plus a number of tangential crimes. Also as usual, the reader learns a great deal about specific aspects of Georgian life. In each book one of these aspects is a focal point, in this case coinage and banking.

William Savage is a living compendium of Georgian life, and he creates a world into which the reader is absorbed, alternatively colorful and dangerous, and populated by characters that become real. Over the series, I have come to look forward to the reappearance of many of them, interested in how their lives are evolving, as they most certainly do.

I was not disappointed by the tangled ball of yarn created by the author to be unwound by Ashmole Foxe. The pacing of this mystery series is slow, in keeping with life in Georgian England, and is something I have learned to enjoy. It allows the reader to savor the story.

If I had one criticism, it is the length of time it takes to get to the mystery. There is always a period of introduction at the beginning of the Foxe stories but this one was long enough to be on the tedious side.

I was also disappointed that the changes in Foxe’s life in the last book – his turn to more sedate attire and true consideration of the women in his life – were not evident in this one. Can this man go on forever in his present state? Will age catch up with him? I guess I will have to wait for the next book to find out.

In any event, as always, I strongly recommend this latest Ashmole Foxe adventure to anyone who likes historical mysteries and to anyone who might!

Book description

Samuel Melanus, a rich goldsmith turned banker goes missing, and his promiscuous wife is found naked and strangled on her own bed. It’s yet another case for Georgian Norwich’s most cunning and unconventional crime-solver, the bookseller Mr Ashmole Foxe.

Foxe is approached by representatives of the city’s mercantile elite to find the missing banker before his disappearance causes a financial panic. Then, right at the start, news comes that the man’s wife has been found murdered. Thus begins a tale of intrigue, deceit and hatred, involving one of Foxe’s most loathed enemies.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS