Mystery

All posts in the Mystery category

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published December 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet all about?:

The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet follows a man who comes to Holmes and Watson for help when a precious beryl coronet he is tasked with looking after is damaged and some of the jewels are stolen.

What did I think?:

As I’ve made my way through the short stories in The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has regularly managed to stump me over what exactly is going on in his mysteries. So I was quite delighted (but at the same time strangely disappointed) when I could instantly identify our perpetrator in The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet. Mind you, he still managed to stun me with the more intricate details of the crime i.e. the reasons behind it and for that reason, it was again a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I don’t think anyone has managed to write a detective as intriguing and as famous as Mr Holmes and I’m sure his stories will continue to entertain for many years to come.

This story follows a banker called Alexander Holder who is given an incredibly valuable and very well known beryl coronet to hold as security when he gives a client a loan of £50,000. Not trusting the safe at his office he keeps the item at home, believing his family and staff trustworthy despite the current disappointment he has in the character of his son, Arthur. Of course, you might have seen it coming, the coronet is damaged one night and some of the jewels are nowhere to be found. Even worse, when Alexander hears the disruption at night, he comes to the room where the coronet is stored to find it in the hands of his son, Arthur who he presumes to have been involved in the crime and calls for him to be arrested. He is now begging Holmes and Watson to discover what really happened that night so he can come to terms with his son being guilty or innocent.

This is a great little mystery to get your teeth into and although I had guessed what had happened and who was responsible, I loved all the minute details that went into how Holmes deduced exactly what had occurred. There’s not that much interaction between Holmes and Watson in this story sadly but I still enjoyed him as a background presence and the narrator of our tale. Holmes is his usual genius self divulging to the reader all the random, tiny little things that you might never pick up on but turn out to be a crucial piece of evidence in solving the mystery – ah, imagine if our police detectives today had his skills?! The next story in this collection is actually the last one I believe and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering Sherlock Holmes for the very first time.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Freaks: A Rizzoli & Isles Short Story by Tess Gerritsen (stand-alone).

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The Hangman’s Song (Inspector McLean #3) – James Oswald

Published December 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Book three in the Detective Inspector McLean series.

A young man is found hanging by a rope in his Edinburgh home. A simple, sad suicide, yet Detective Inspector Tony McLean is puzzled by the curious suicide note. A second hanged man and another strange note hint at a sinister pattern.

Investigating a brutal prostitution and human trafficking ring, McLean struggles to find time to link the two suicides. But the discovery of a third convinces him of malicious intent.

Digging deeper, McLean finds answers much closer to home than he expects. Something terrifying stalks the city streets, and bringing it to justice may destroy all he holds dear.

What did I think?:

I approached the third book in the Inspector McLean series with slight trepidation, I have to admit. I had finished The Book Of Souls and enjoyed it, that much was clear but I had a tiny issue with the supernatural element that was a bit of an additional surprise at the end of the second novel and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. If you’ve never read any books in this series before, I guess you could read this as a stand alone but I think you’d be missing out on the characters back stories and other important events that have occurred bringing them to the situation that they find themselves in during The Hangman’s Song. Therefore, I would highly recommend starting the series with the first novel, Natural Causes and going from there if you enjoy it.

Our male detective protagonist for the series, Inspector Tony McLean is back and has been seconded to the Sexual Crimes Unit after the events of the last novel. He becomes embroiled in a harrowing case involving prostitution and human trafficking but whilst he is attempting to work on this, another case comes to his attention. There is a hanging in Edinburgh, the victim is male and is, at first, assumed to be a suicide. However, when another young man is found dead in the same circumstances and then a third, Tony begins to smell a rat. Especially as he finds (amongst other evidence) that the same length of rope was used in all three deaths. Along with this, Tony is coping with some very intense circumstances in his personal life. Someone very close to him has been released from hospital but has regressed to a child-like state psychologically with little memories of past events so he is compelled to look after them and help them on the road to recovery. Will Tony manage to juggle three very complicated events in his own life and manage to find the connections? Or will he be at risk of losing everything that is important in the world to him?

I’ve tried to be deliberately vague in this review for fear of spoilers of course but I think that sums up everything you need to know about this novel. Generally speaking, I did enjoy it and I was compelled to read until the end, curious to find out exactly what was going on and how/if it would all be resolved. Luckily, I felt much more on board with the supernatural elements of the narrative. I think because it came as such a shock at the end of The Book Of Souls, I was much more prepared for it this time round and embraced it as an important part of the story. As to why it bothered me before, I’m not sure. Perhaps I thought I was reading a regular piece of crime fiction then the author threw in a magical curve ball right at the end and caught me off guard? Who’s to say? Anyway, it felt much more believable in The Hangman’s Song and I look forward to seeing how it develops in future books in the series. The one thing I’m definitely invested in the series for is the character of Detective McLean. I love his snarky humour, loyalty to his friends, traumatic events in his past and how he manages to deal with the difficult situations in his present. Hopefully I’ll be reading the fourth book in the series, Dead Men’s Bones sometime in the New Year so I’m excited to see where the story will go next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Rivals Of The Republic (Blood Of Rome #1) – Annelise Freisenbruch

Published November 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

IN THE ABSENCE OF HONOURABLE MEN, WHO WILL DEFEND ROME?

The body of a Vestal Virgin is dragged out of the River Tiber…

A senator bleeds to death in his bath…

And as the authorities turn a blind eye, Hortensia, daughter of the capital’s most celebrated orator, feels compelled to investigate a trail of murders that lead to the dark heart of Rome.

Flying in the face of her husband’s and father’s attempts to protect her, rebelling against the constraints imposed upon her sex, she is drawn ever deeper into the corrupt underworld that lurks in the shadows cast by the city’s all-powerful elite.

When fires begin to rage in the slums and more key witnesses are silenced, only one man can save Hortensia from becoming the next victim of a conspiracy to destroy the Republic: Lucrio, the damaged ex-gladiator to whom she already owes her life. Then the secrets of his own tragic past threaten to subsume them both…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Duckworth Overlook Publishers for sending me a copy of the first novel in the Blood Of Rome series in exchange for an honest review. Ancient Roman history has always been one of my favourite things to read about and when I heard that this novel focused on actual figureheads of Rome in 70 BC combined with some crime fiction elements, I jumped at the chance to read a review copy. Overall, I thought this was a fascinating insight into Rome in the days when gladiators were still thrown to the lions, conspiracy was rife, the fight for ultimate power over the city was a constant seesaw of favour, women did not have a strong voice and, for many citizens in the country, standards of living were brutal.

Annelise Freisenbruch sets us up with the most wonderful female protagonist – determined and independent Hortensia, daughter of a famed public speaker in Rome and not adverse to a bit of public speaking herself, despite the controversy it causes in the novel. The story is set with two deaths, a senator who appears to have committed suicide in his bathtub and a Vestal Virgin who appears to have drowned. The difference between this and many other tales in the crime fiction genre is that we immediately know who the villains of the piece are, but what the author does very skillfully is ever so slowly revealing to us the reasons behind why their dastardly plans.

Hortensia becomes quickly embroiled in an intricate plot focused on corruption, greed, desire and above all, power and with the help of a gladiator called Lucrio and the Chief Vestal Virgin Cornelia, begins to unravel the more sinister side of Rome, exposing the lengths some men will go to to get exactly what they want. However, Lucrio too has some huge secrets in his past and this all ties in very neatly so that he can help his mistress, prevent the murderer from striking again and wreak his much longed for revenge.

It is obvious from the very start of this novel that the author has carried out meticulous research on these characters of Rome and she certainly knows her stuff. The characters, especially Hortensia and our villains (which I won’t spoil!) practically leap off the page with their vibrancy and I was certainly entranced by the complex plot but above all, the beautiful description of daily life in Ancient Rome. I think it’s fair to say that there were some points of the narrative that were slower than others but generally this was a highly enjoyable read. I adored the scenes in the court where Hortensia finally gets to show what she is made of and yes, I even did a little “silent cheer,” at her triumphs. If you’re at all interested in Rome or enjoy historical fiction with a slight gritty edge I would say definitely give this book a shot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Hush Little Baby – Joanna Barnard

Published November 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When baby Oliver breaks his arm, no-one can (or will) say how it happened.

His mother is exhausted.

His father is angry.

His older sister is resentful.

And they all have something to hide

What did I think?:

First of all, a big thank you to Ebury Press, part of Penguin Random House publishers for sending me a copy of this fantastic thriller in exchange for an honest review. Hush Little Baby was released in August 2017 and apologies that I’m only getting round to reading it now, I certainly won’t make that mistake again with any future novel I happen to read by Joanna Barnard. This book was such a wonderful surprise, exciting, tense and twisty that delves into some very dark places and controversial issues with ease and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, racing through it in less than twenty-four hours like a woman possessed!

The above synopsis says everything you really need to know concerning what this book is about. As you may know, I’m not one for revealing spoilers so I’m hoping to be as deliberately vague as possible regarding the plot. It’s basically the story of a family – Sally, her husband Richard, their baby Oliver and Oliver’s teenage half-sister Martha. All their lives are turned upside down one night when Oliver has to be rushed to hospital after mysteriously breaking his arm with an injury the hospital are certain is unequivocally not accidental. No one is accepting responsibility for the incident and each member of the family has their own issues to deal with about the night in question i.e. where they were, what they were doing etc. Now social services have become involved and have removed Oliver from his parents to his grandparents custody whilst they try to find out what has happened. Hush Little Baby is a novel where parental responsibilities are questioned, dark secrets are unearthed and the actions of all our characters are revealed slowly and steadily with an ending that will leave you dumbfounded and in my case, slightly unsettled.

This fascinating novel is told in one of my favourite ways, from multiple perspectives. We hear from all three “potentially guilty,” parties in alternating chapters: Sally, Richard and Martha who were all there in some way when baby Oliver was injured. It was quite early on in the story that I began to have opinions on all three persons concerned, all of whom have made mistakes on that night but it’s up to the reader to decide who indeed might have made the biggest mistake. The plot itself deals with multiple issues, apart from the obvious issue of child abuse/neglect, it also explores mental illness, relationship difficulties and there are trigger warnings for self-harm which you should be aware of if you are sensitive to this subject. Because of this, it goes to some incredibly murky depths to paint the picture of what *might* have happened to Oliver and who *may* be to blame.

I have to say it made my emotions go haywire at points, particularly with the character depiction. I wanted to shake one of them at one point, I despised another with a passion and then I wanted to just take another far away from it all. It is the story of what happened to Oliver but mainly, it’s a novel about how a relationship can be affected by a crisis such as this, how people either do or do not take responsibility for their actions and how detrimental your actions can be to another person (or people) without even being aware of it. If you’re after a psychological thriller that is much more about the reactions of characters rather than what actually happened to the child, I would definitely read this book. Personally, I’ll definitely be checking out Joanna’s first book, Precocious on the strength of this one and I can hardly wait.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

A Dangerous Crossing – Rachel Rhys

Published November 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

What did I think?:

I was first made aware of A Dangerous Crossing through a good blogger friend, the wonderful Cleopatra from Cleopatra Loves Books and you can read her fantastic review HERE. She gave it five stars and called it “a story not to be missed.” Cleo also won the opportunity to have her name appear as a character in this novel by means of a charity auction on behalf on CLIC Sargent so look out for her fabulous cameo near the end! Cleo is one of a special group of people to me that when she makes a recommendation I really listen and I’m so glad I did because I cannot stress enough how wonderful this book was. Rachel Rhys (the pen-name of a successful psychological suspense author) writes such a vivid historical fiction novel that I was completely swept up with the time period, the characters and the evocative, mysterious nature of the narrative.

Our main female protagonist is Lily Shepherd and she has recently boarded a massive cruise ship en route to Australia in search of adventure, to see the world and escape certain events from her past. She gratefully seizes an opportunity to pursue domestic work in Australia in the late 1930’s when they were crying out for British workers for a fixed period of time. On the voyage, she instantly connects with a brother and sister, Edward and Helena Fletcher and a Jewish refugee called Maria but also comes into contact with the glamorous and rich couple Eliza and Max Campbell, strange and interfering Ida and fascist bully George. Interestingly, all the characters she comes into contact with appear to be running away from something and as the voyage continues, Lily slowly discovers what this is. At the very beginning of the novel, the prologue describes a woman being led off the ship in handcuffs but just what the woman has done and what precipitated her crime is all left for the reader to discover, piece by delicious piece.

A Dangerous Crossing was picked for the Richard and Judy Autumn Book Club here in the UK and it’s easily one of my favourites in terms of writing style, characters and plot. How can I describe the characters? There’s only one word really – just GORGEOUS. There’s such a variety of individuals to enjoy, each drawn beautifully with their own distinct personality, motives and morals that it’s almost like watching a blockbuster movie in your head. I was taken directly into the author’s world (a very willing and excited participant) from that show-stopper of a prologue right until the sensational finale which shocked and delighted me in equal measure. England is on the brink of war but on this cruise liner, in the middle of the ocean, it’s a completely different world entirely with its very own heroes and villains, morals and obligations, drama and danger. Basically, this book is perfection and I have not got a bad word to say about it – please read it and discover its brilliance for yourself!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

The House – Simon Lelic

Published November 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

What did I think?:

I remember reading one other novel from Simon Lelic in my pre-blogging days which was called Rupture or alternatively A Thousand Cuts and really enjoyed it, giving it four stars on GoodReads so goodness knows why it’s taken me so long to get round to another one of his books! I borrowed The House from my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads after a bookish trip to Bath when she was reading it and she had so many different facial expressions and reactions whilst she was reading that I was instantly intrigued and begged to borrow it from her. The House has everything you would want from a gritty thriller – unreliable narrators, suspense, mystery, twists and turns and a gripping plot that makes it pretty much impossible to put the book down.

One of my favourite things about this novel is the way in which it is initially written. We hear in alternate chapters from a couple, Jack and Sydney as they recount recent events in their lives that began with them buying a house in London and ended with a murder and the suspicion of the police landing firmly on their doorstep. We learn a little bit about their past lives, in particular Sydney’s traumatic childhood which led to her abusing drugs and unable to trust anyone until she meets the love of her life, Jack. We also learn how they came to buy the house in London, their concerns and misgivings about the process and, crucially, the gruesome discovery that they find when they begin living there which precipitates a host of other events leading to the turbulent situation that the couple find themselves in at the present moment.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot as the beauty of this novel is to go in knowing as little as possible to make the surprises the author springs upon the reader as deliciously astonishing as possible. Luckily, Chrissi didn’t tell me anything (she’s good like that!) but as soon as I saw some of her facial expressions, as I mentioned, I knew I was in for quite the ride and I was right. Simon Lelic writes a fascinating tale where you have no idea what on earth is happening, who to trust/believe and what the possible outcome of such a situation could be and he had me on tenterhooks from the very beginning to the very satisfying conclusion. For me, Sydney felt slightly more fleshed out as a character and I found her back story to be incredibly powerful and moving, especially one scene in particular involving a male character in her life and a gun which sent shivers down my spine. Reading The House has made me definitely want to seek out the author’s other two novels and additionally, makes me hugely excited for anything else he publishes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel with Chrissi Reads

Published November 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What did you make of Amy Engel’s first step into adult fiction?
BETH: I haven’t actually read any of her young adult fiction so I wasn’t sure what to expect from her writing. I’m really glad now that I went into this book not knowing what to expect as I think that’s definitely the way it should be read. I had heard so much buzz about it on Twitter and read some really great reviews from bloggers I love and trust so I was really excited to get stuck in. I also managed to avoid any spoilers which is fantastic as this is definitely a book that could be spoiled if a reviewer isn’t careful.
BETH: You had some quite conflicting feelings about this novel. Can you try and explain them?
CHRISSI: I can’t really articulate my feelings around this book because they’re so complex! At some points I thought it was brilliantly dark and deeply disturbing which I don’t mind in a book. I didn’t like any of the characters…again, not something that bothers me, so it can’t exactly be that. It’s incredibly hard to explain my feelings about this book in a way that doesn’t spoil it for future readers. Let’s just say, I didn’t like the way some aspects of the book weren’t challenged by the characters. I couldn’t feel empathy with them because of that. No one seemed to care or challenge issues. That frustrated me.
CHRISSI: Discuss the complex relationship between Lane and Allegra.
BETH: Lane and Allegra are cousins and when Lane’s mother dies, she comes to live at the Roanoke house with her grandfather, grandmother and cousin Allegra who has been raised there from a baby. At first, the two girls are delighted to be reunited and desperate to get to know each other, especially as they are of a similar age. It isn’t long though before tensions mount and their relationship becomes a lot more fragile which is one of the many factors that leads to Lane leaving and Allegra disappearing.
BETH: Without spoilers, did the main shock of the novel come as a big surprise to you?
CHRISSI: It didn’t. I started to guess what was going on as the story progressed. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be that way, but it was! This book is disturbing and I do feel that it should be approached with caution if you’re sensitive about some subjects that could trigger you.
CHRISSI: Discuss the small town setting of the novel and what this adds to the story.
BETH: Amy Engel captures all the quirks of a small town perfectly. Everybody knows who everybody else is and this means they also think that they’re entitled to know all their business too. There isn’t much to do in the town, purely because of the size of it and its distance from neighbouring towns so this gives some of the inhabitants, particularly our female protagonist Lane, the feeling of being too tightly enclosed and trapped. We also see when Lane returns as an adult how many things have stayed exactly the same (including people that she has left behind) and how frustrating this is for her as she fights to be free.
BETH: How do you think this book sits in the genre?
CHRISSI: I think it stands out as a book that is quite polarising. I can imagine some people will love its deep and dark subject matter. Others like me, would hope for some more sensitivity given the subject matter. It’s certainly a dark and gritty read. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind reading this book and it didn’t take long to read…it’s just not something I’d personally re-read.
CHRISSI: I had a love/hate relationship with this book. How did you feel about it?
BETH: I know you had quite an interesting reading experience with The Roanoke Girls where you couldn’t quite make up your mind whether you liked it or hated it but for me I think it was a bit more black and white. I did really enjoy this novel, purely because it was so dark and twisty which was a welcome bonus – I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be as disturbing as it was! I didn’t particularly like any of the characters at all but I don’t think you have to like a character to appreciate a good story either, sometimes I feel the best novels are where you have such strong feelings of DISLIKE for a character! It also had a great little twist at the end which I kind of guessed just before the final scene but was still a fantastic end to the novel.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I think I would. I didn’t hate the writing style, I found it particularly engaging! I would be interested to read the YA fiction that the author has had published!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Yes! (With caution)
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
 four-stars_0
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
 3 Star Rating Clip Art