Mini review: ‘The Crown Agent’ by Stephen O’Rourke with thanks to Sandstone Press

Doctor Mungo Lyon…is the wrong man. That’s exactly why the Crown chose him.

Blurb

A ship adrift, all hands dead. A lighthouse keeper murdered in the night. The Crown needs man to find the truth. Doctor Mungo Lyon, his reputation tarnished by the Burke & Hare scandal, and forbidden to practise as a surgeon, is the wrong man.
That’s exactly why the Crown chose him.

My thoughts…

This is a journey into the past, from the dramatic events of the opening prologue, we are immersed into a fast-paced adventure, set in 1829; a tale of secrets, spies, codes, threat and murder.

Our protagonist, Doctor Mungo Lyon is adrift after his growing career has taken a fall by association with the Burke and Hare scandal in Scotland. A mysterious meeting with a Lord Advocate leads to a new ‘career’ in espionage, and several pages of fast-paced action for the reader as Lyon is suddenly the focus of some nefarious characters and with an absorbing puzzle to solve.

Once the story is established and develops in earnest, it’s a great historical adventure with all the elements you’d expect. It’s enjoyable, really well-paced and full of contrasting characters. I enjoyed trying to work out who Lyon could trust and who were dangerous. I loved the historical detail, O’Rourke makes it so easy for you to picture the past, from canal travel, to Scottish ports and alienating taverns.

For me, the story concluded in a bit of a rush and the connection between Lyon and Fiona didn’t work for me personally, but you do have to remember this is the first book in a series, so there’s a way to go, it isn’t an issue as I assume the set up between characters and Lyon’s new role will be explored and developed further in their next adventure.

This is a great premise for a new historical espionage series and I’d recommend this book to readers who enjoy intrigue, drama and lots of historical detail.

An energetic historical spy adventure that’s quite a ride, full of peril, menace and pursuit! Recommended.

Out 7th November, 2019

Mini Review of ‘All the Rage’ by Cara Hunter with huge thanks to Penguin Books.

D.I. Adam Fawley series

Blurb

A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.

DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?

And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past.

Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back . . .

My thoughts…

This is the fourth book in the DI Adam Fawley series, so to make the most of the character development it’s best to read in order. Although, the investigation is new and therefore, of course, it can be read as standalone.
The pieces and puzzles mount up in this pacy crime read as Fawley and his team try to solve an attack on a young girl and the following brutal murder of another. There’s also a stark connection to a previous conviction which casts significant doubts within the team, and for Fawley personally.

I really enjoy the mixed media and investigators/court document inserts in Hunter’s novels – the early books were rather Twitter heavy, for me, however the balance in this book is really good ~ the documents and social media chats are short and snappy enough to be an asset to the storytelling rather than a distraction. The perfect balance.
This is an intelligent, twisty, impeccably plotted and driven crime thriller read. Highly recommended.

Books in order

  1. Close to Home
  2. In the Dark
  3. No Way Out
  4. All the Rage

Paperback out January 2020, Kindle edition Dec 2019

‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy, with huge thanks to Titan Books for the review copy.

BLURB

On winter solstice, the birds disappeared, and the mist arrived.

The inhabitants of Nebulah quickly learn not to venture out after dark. But it is hard to stay indoors: cabin fever sets in, and the mist can be beguiling, too.

Eventually only six remain. Like the rest of the townspeople, Pete has nowhere else to go. After he rescues a stranded psychic from a terrible fate, he’s given a warning: he will be dead by solstice unless he leaves town – soon.

My thoughts…

Okay, I’m not a horror genre reader. In the past, I’ve read one Stephen King and a James Herbert, but I’ve such an over-active imagination that I crept around for weeks afterwards and jumped at every shadow at night. So, when I received ‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy I decided to be brave, although rather foolishly read it late at night! Don’t ask me why!

Nebulah, once a prosperous mining town, is now isolated due to a strange phenomenon of a ghostly mist arriving, no one can understand why and the town becomes more of a tourist attraction and a freak show; one by one the inhabitants leave. I spent a lot of time saying ‘WHY?’ as I read this book… these last inhabitants of the town are certainly stubborn and loyal, or completely crazy! I, quite frankly, would have been on the first bus out of there! If you live in Nebulah then you have to board yourself in at night, otherwise a maelstrom of horrors is upon you! Seriously creepy. The story follows the last six people who, for different reasons, decide to stay and live in this literal ghost town.

The story is steadily told through the eyes of Pete, a former policeman and a good man but he’s very isolated. The day time is slowly paced, and this increases our anticipation for what horrors will come at night. Once I started reading I wanted answers. When events turned intense, I wanted to throw the book with frustration at these last inhabitants. As usual, in these horror situations there are people who think they are impervious to harm – and Pete is suddenly faced with the task of risking himself to save those foolhardy ones that come to experience the famous ‘ghost town’.

Now as an animal lover, I hate it when animals are in books like this, as I just spend most of my time worrying about them, so that’s exactly what I did here – it was like watching Will Smith and his dog again in ‘I am Legend’. So, without giving away plot, animals lovers beware, it’s not a happy wagging tale ending for our furry friends – but not on the level of ‘Marley and Me’ so it’s manageable.

Overall, if you like odd creepy horror genre reads this is worth it; it’s a well written, nicely paced read with lots of thriller elements. It’s also inspired loosely from the actual Australian blue asbestos town of Wittenoom. The toxic town has only a handful of remaining residents and has become a fascination for tourists and thrill-seekers; people are strange! Look it up, it’s crazy! This also suggests there’s a real social commentary at the heart of this story from Lois Murphy.

This is definitely a recommended read from me – a weird, creepy and startling horror read; gripping and disturbing.

Mini review of ‘Vengeance of Hope’ by P.J Berman

Can freedom ever be for all?

Blurb

Can freedom ever be for all? How do you save a nation from tyranny?

When the King of Bennvika dies in suspicious circumstances and a foreign usurper named Jostan Kazabus seizes the throne, ruthlessly imposing his will on the population, a disunited triumvirate of leaders and their followers must attempt to resist him.

The first is Silrith, the ousted philanthropic princess who had been expected to succeed her father. The second is Ezrina, a vengeful rebel who is desperate to overturn the years of ethnic oppression of her people, the Hentani. The third is Zethun, a minor noble who believes the only way to fight for the common people is to abolish the monarchy altogether.

As the various factions fight the threat of tyranny and religious persecution, each must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their cause.

My thoughts

This first novel in the ‘Silrith’ series ‘Vengeance of Hope’ is a epic medieval inspired fantasy novel and if you visit the author’s website there’s a host of environment background and character detail that build depth to this fictional world. The book has a series of maps, always much appreciated by the reader, a glossary and an extensive character list. I knew then, that this book would require some concentration! I enjoy fantasy books, but apart from the first book in ‘A Game of Thrones’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ my fantasy reading is more of a YA level.

This book was also an unusual read, as I read half and listened to the other half on audio book; I much preferred listening to the story – all the pronunciations were worked out for me for a start, and I could close my eyes and really imagine this extensive world. I did find it generally difficult to track the amount of characters, and some snappy location changes, but this is not dissimilar to other epic style fantasy series. More seasoned fantasy readers would probably glide through it.

The book begins with drama, and the web of truth and lies. Straight away we’re in the complex court life of politics, intrigue and betrayal. Silrith a princess whose life suddenly and dramatically changes after the death of her father has to overcome many challenges, both politically and as a battle commander and we are immediately taken into her world. There are several other players in this quest for power, who face oppression, who want revenge, politicians, dictators and rebels drive the tension and narrative forward; this is a well-constructed world where people are fighting for their causes. I really enjoyed and appreciated the strong female characters Berman writes.

The journey is vicious at times, Bergman writes really good battle scenes and I raced through these pages. Greed, power and back-stabbing drive the edgier moments in the plot and the narrative is better for it.

Overall, this ticks all the epic fantasy world boxes and if you enjoy fantasy novels then have a read of this. The second book in this series, ‘King of the Republic’ is out any time now, so you won’t have to wait to continue the adventure.

Click the link below to visit P.J. Berman’s website to find out more.

https://www.pjbermanbooks.com/

To purchase, or find out more click the link above.

Blog Tour for ‘The Birthday House’ by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTour

A friendship. A Murder. A life that will never be the same.

I’m really happy to be a part of this blog tour for Jill Treseder’s book with thanks to Anne Cater at #RandomThingsTours and @SilverWoodBooks – do check out the chat about this book from other book bloggers on this tour.

BLURB

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.

In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.

Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

MY THOUGHTS

‘The Birthday House’ is a novella, and it’s a well put together multi-perspective narrative leading up to tragic events of one day in 1955. Whilst some narratives are stronger than others it does make compelling reading. Our retrospective narrator Susan looks back from 2018 to these traumatic events from her childhood. What follows is a series of first-person voices leading up to terrible events surrounding the loss of her childhood friend and family; this is an attempt to explore how life and relationships can lead to awful circumstances that need to be explored, to be able to grieve and comprehend the shocking events.

I enjoyed the piecing together of events of 1954/5 from the voices of those involved; this is at its heart a very sad story, but it also serves as an attempt to put to rest the deep loss during this time for Susan, whose loss of her friend at such a young age has deeply affected her and the rest of her life.

You know the events right from the start, the brutal murder of a family by the father, and his suicide; they are made more thought-provoking when you find out the author is exploring these events from her own personal experience and loss of her childhood friend.

This is a decent novella that has many points for discussion, it also highlights the need for honesty and communication to minimise years of grief clouding your life. It explores a tragic event in an open way; the deaths are awful and hard to read, so be aware of this when reading. This also highlights mental illness and the importance of recognition and seeking help.

A novella of a shocking family murder-suicide, written with a sensitive touch, exploring why such terrible events occur and the effects on those left behind. A poignant and tragic tale.

Check out the bloggers above to find out more…

https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781328798/the-birthday-house – to purchase from the publishers and support independents X

Mini review of ‘Broken Souls’ by Patricia Gibney published by Bookouture

Patricia Gibney’s Lottie Parker series never lets you down ~ this is another great read, well executed, plotted and paced.
Lottie, as usual, never has it easy, both in her private and working environment ~ but she’s a tough character, and despite falling by the wayside at times, she bounces back with strength and drive, making a great protagonist.
This case centres around initially suspected suicides, but soon it becomes clear that something more sinister is occurring. There’s also a missing child aspect to the case making life hard for Lottie Parker and her team.
This is a series read, and although it can be read as a stand-alone, I’d recommend following the series from the beginning to understand the characters and their relationships. This book is rather emotive for a particular character and relationship thread.
So, as always a top recommendation from me. The Lottie Parker books are intelligent, driven police investigation reads with the added bonus of strongly written and engaging characters.

Published 18th Oct 2019 – huge thanks to Bookouture for the advanced review copy.

Mystery Thriller read.

September Mini Reading Wrap-Up

I’ve no idea where September went… anyone? Well, hello to October and it’s the start of my favourite reading months snuggled by the open fire. My daughter has already got a rotten cold, poor thing, she looked like the undead after school today; I’m hoping it stays away from me.

This is my second attempt to write my September wrap-up, as something weird happened and all my drafts disappeared, including my prepared October reviews – painful! So, I’ve only just got the will to write it all again! So here goes some speedy typing…

Highlight of the month! So, I was deliriously happy to receive an advanced copy of Jane Casey’s ‘The Cutting Place’ – the next book in the Maeve Kerrigan series. I obviously read it immediately and it’s pretty much my favourite of the series… it’s out April 2020. As always I’d recommend reading this series from the start as it’s all about the character developments, particularly the Kerrigan and Derwent dynamic, and this book is a real treat! A 5 star read.

‘Bringing Down a Duke’ by Evie Dunmore – this is a new historical romance set in 1879 where a bluestocking teaches a duke a lesson – it’s what is says on the blurb, and fun for a couple of hours entertainment – some funny moments 3.5 stars, as it took me a while to get into.

‘Trade Winds’ by M.M.Kaye, the author of ”The Far Pavilions’; this one’s set in 1859 where a young girl arrives in Zanzibar and meets a ruthless trader – it’s all about piracy, slave trades, abduction and a cholera epidemic – overall I’m not a fan of this one. 3 stars, just.

‘The Birthday House’ by Jill Treseder – this is for a blog tour next week, so more then. But briefly, it’s a novella looking at different perspectives of a tragic event in 1955 – based on a true event. 3.8 stars.

‘Code 17’ by Francis Booth – this was also read for a blog tour – see my earlier post for more chat about this one. It’s a quirky light-hearted spy thriller set in the swinging sixties. 4 stars. Fun.

‘A Single Thread’ by Tracy Chevalier – 4.8 stars, I really enjoyed this – I’ve chatted about it already, so have a look if you’d like to know more. It’s set in 1932 where the losses of WW1 are still keenly felt. It focuses on one of the surplus women and her new life in Winchester, with churches, bell-ringing and embroidery filling her days. I really enjoyed this and read it with the Pigeonhole reading community.

‘The Devil Upstairs’ by Anthony O’Neill – 4 stars and read for another blog tour – so check out that post if this book interests you. Set in Edinburgh where a neighbour from hell is ruining our protagonist’s life – so she unwittingly calls up the devil. Enjoyable, dark tale.

‘Gods of Shade and Shadow’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a 3.5 star read for me and a bit of a cover buy. Set in Mexico in 1927 where Casiopea Tun accidentally sets free an ancient Mayan god of death and they head off on a cross country odyssey – so it’s an historical fantasy based loosely on Hades and Persephone. Nice rich language and descriptions but the characters didn’t overly work for me. A strong ending that implies a sequel.

‘The Princess Plan’ by Julia London was a review book read and I didn’t overly enjoy it, the characters didn’t really interest me and it was really slow. Last 40% improved so 3 stars but an overall no for suiting me.

‘Promise of Darkness’ by Bec McMaster is the first book in the Dark Court Rising fantasy romance series. It’s about Fae Kingdoms, cursed princes, evil queens and hostages. Dark, smouldering scenes with lots of action. Entertaining. and well-written escapism! 4 stars…just.

‘The Animals of Lockwood Manor’ by Jane Healey – a well-written book with a dark, gothic edged setting. With themes from parental loss and parental control, to female plight in a dominant patriarchal world and the desire and secrecy of female relationships. There’s also a cast of stuffed animals moved to an isolated manor to protect them from bombings during the war – not as enjoyable as I’d hoped for me 3.8 stars.

‘Broken Souls’ by Patricia Gibney – another review read and this one I was really looking forward to. I’ve been reading the Lottie Parker detective series from the start. They are smart, well-written crime dramas which include some fully rounded characters and their relationships. Really enjoyed it 4.8 stars.

‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’ by Alix E. Harrow. 4 stars, I really liked this, for me it was a slow start but then I was hooked. Creative, beautifully written and emotive. Based on the idea that every story opens a door and is a bit of a homage to fantasy stories like Narnia, where a doorway can lead to a new land and adventures.

October reads have started well, I’ve read 5 books so far which I’m looking forward to writing about in my Oct wrap-up…

I worked furiously in the office today to free up reading time, so I’m off to make my daughter a comforting sick-bed snack and continue reading Helen Fields’ new book ‘Perfect Kill’ for the rest of the day – with huge thanks to Avon Books for the advance review copy! Love this series! Happy Days all!