Mystery

All posts in the Mystery category

Last Seen Alive – Claire Douglas

Published August 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Hero

Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive.

The Swap

Which is why the house swap is such a godsend. Libby and her husband Jamie exchange their flat in Bath for a beautiful, secluded house in Cornwall. It’s a chance to heal their marriage – to stop its secrets tearing them apart.

The Hideaway

But this stylish Cornish home isn’t the getaway they’d hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It’s so isolated-yet Libby doesn’t feel entirely alone. As if she’s being watched.

Is Libby being paranoid? What is her husband hiding? And. As the secrets and lies come tumbling out, is the past about to catch up with them?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Sarah Harwood and the team at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this wonderful novel in return for an honest review after I had seen some glowing opinions of it on Twitter. Well, I am so glad I asked because Last Seen Alive was everything I could want from a thriller. Intrigue, shocks galore, an action-packed plot combined with fascinating characters made this novel such a delight to read. So much so in fact that as soon as I had finished, I immediately went and purchased the author’s previous two novels, The Sisters and Local Girl Missing – both of which I had seen around and been interested but hadn’t got round to getting yet. Rest assured I shall be making time for them as soon as is practically possible!

There are a number of different threads to this plot (which was one of the reasons why I loved it so much) but let me give you the main gist of the story. Libby Hall and her husband, Jamie have recently undergone a terrible loss in their lives but are determined not to let it affect or change their relationship in any way. When they are given an opportunity to do a house swap for a few days, giving up their flat in Bath and taking over another couple’s house in Cornwall, they jump at the chance. The house is stunning, the location picturesque and the couple seem to be finally putting their tragedy behind them. However, someone connected to the couple has other ideas. For Libby has huge secrets in her past, things Jamie is completely unaware of and if a certain person has their way and the past is revealed in its full horrific detail they just might not survive it with their marriage intact.

I was seriously not expecting how much I was going to enjoy this novel. At the beginning, I was curious for sure and definitely compelled to keep reading but it is only with the addition of more perspectives and a journey into the past that provide the real twists and turns in the narrative. I’m hesitant to say any more, you really have to read it for yourself to experience the excitement, chills and at times pure confusion which was the effect this novel had on me as a reader. I was actually reading this book on a bookish holiday to Oxford with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads and she kept laughing at me as at points when I was reading, I kept making little noises and gasps – I was that invested in the story and the characters. Please believe me when I say that the word “cliffhanger,” is not even big enough or accurate enough to describe the immense thrills I had when reaching the end of certain chapters. Personally, I now just want to eat up everything Claire Douglas has written and will write in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Wages Of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Published August 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1882, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, beautifully drawn setting, fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving my request on NetGalley to read this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I saw Wages of Sin initially on Twitter and it ticked all the boxes for me as a reader. It’s a work of historical fiction (tick), set in Edinburgh (tick) in the Victorian era (tick) that involves a strong female lead character (tick) dealing with a mysterious murder (tick). With so much going for it, there is always the anticipation that it might not be as great as it sounds but luckily I had no worries at all on that account. This book was a fantastic and thrilling debut novel and a truly fascinating look into women in science at a time when it was slightly frowned upon in an arrogantly patriarchal society.

Our main character is Sarah Gilchrist, a highly intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor but has to leave London after a scandal threatens her standing in the world. She becomes a medical student in Edinburgh and has to struggle on a daily basis with not only the derision of the male students but also the attitudes of her fellow women scholars who become suspicious of her past. Sarah works her fingers to the bone – studying, completing practical and written assessments for her training and then (if that wasn’t hard work enough) assisting a friend at her medical clinic, helping the poor, needy and often “women of ill repute.”

This is where she comes across Lucy, a prostitute who comes in begging for help with an unwanted pregnancy, of course completely illegal in these times. She is turned away only to turn up dead on the anatomy table the next time Sarah sees her. Sarah feels devastated at what has happened but also determined to unearth the secrets of her death, especially when she suspects foul play and discovers tenuous links between Lucy and a professor at the medical school. However, she is treading on very dangerous grounds as some people may desire the secrets that died with Lucy to remain buried and may not necessarily welcome Sarah’s interference.

The Wages Of Sin was an exciting, roller-coaster ride of a novel that had me hooked from page one. Kaite Welsh writes with such a canny eye for detail that you can sense everything in the narrative – the smells, the sounds, the sights and it is brilliantly gritty and difficult to put down once started. Sarah was a fantastic character who was flawed but inherently such a good person and I loved her dogged determination in getting at the truth behind an obviously grisly murder. One of my favourite things about this novel though had to be learning about what female medical students had to suffer when studying to become doctors. They went through abominable treatment being mocked on a daily basis for their choice of career and the lack of confidence in what they could achieve was quite honestly, disgusting. Thank goodness times have changed! For a debut novel, this is an amazing piece of work and so beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and cannot wait to see what Kaite Welsh does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) – Tana French

Published August 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A new novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

Being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

What did I think?:

I didn’t start off reading Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, of which there are now six books but I read the fifth book, The Secret Place quite recently and enjoyed it so when Richard and Judy picked the sixth book, The Trespasser for their Summer Book Club here in the UK I was pleased to carry on where I had left off. I am now planning to re-visit the series from the beginning at some point when that pesky TBR pile is under better control! The Trespasser is Irish crime fiction at its absolute finest and I really enjoy the rather different writing that characterises this authors style. I have to say, I don’t think some people will get on with it, it’s quite a slow burner of a narrative, like The Secret Place but I think if you can push past the slower parts of the narrative you might be pleasantly surprised.

Our protagonist and returning Detective Antoinette Conway is in her dream job, the Murder Squad with partner in crime, Detective Stephen Moran who assisted Antoinette and helped her crack a tricky case in the previous novel, The Secret Place. They make an excellent team but are faced with further intrigue and puzzlement when the latest case lands on their desks. At first, it looks like a standard domestic violence/possible manslaughter incident however things aren’t quite adding up for Antoinette and Stephen. It seems all a bit too easy to blame Aislinn Murray’s lover, Rory for her untimely demise but there are many things going on behind the scenes that make the detectives questions whether there isn’t something a lot deeper and darker going on. Antoinette is already on shaky ground with the majority of officers in the Murder Squad but the question is, can she risk everything she has worked for in pursuit of justice?

As I mentioned before, unlike a lot of crime fiction you see nowadays, I found The Trespasser rather different in that the plot wasn’t necessarily action-packed. It seemed to have a much deeper and intricate focus on the characters, their back stories, their lives and aspirations and the darker, more gritty side of the police force. I wouldn’t call it a page turner to be perfectly honest, in the normal sense of the word but it did keep me turning the pages for different reasons. I became more invested in the characters and what they had done, felt, were going to do in the future and, as a result I felt better connected with the story as a whole. I really love reading about Antoinette as a character, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks,  is independent, takes no nonsense and in The Trespasser we get to see a potentially much softer, troubled and more vulnerable side of her character which only made me more intrigued to carry on with the series if she appears in the next novel from Tana French. So to sum up, if you’re in the mood for a slower, more considered crime fiction style, this definitely gets my seal of approval!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Mini Pin-It Reviews #11 – Four Author Requests

Published July 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four author requests for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

Huge thank you to all the authors for providing me with copies of their books – I really appreciate it.

1.) To Sea – Michael LoCurto

What’s it all about?:

The sea is dead—fishless—and Long Island fisherman Jon Brand is to blame. With his greed of overfishing for years—he is surely the cause of the current famine. According to Jon Brand, that is. Elea, Jon’s wife, sees things differently. An oceans-worth of famine cannot be pinned down on one man alone. And she wishes Jon would man-up and find work inland if the sea can no longer provide for the family. But Jon has faith in the sea. His sea. And he cannot simply turn his back on Her. To Sea explores numerous beaches spanning across the Island where Jon seeks the answers of his fate—of his dry ocean—of his God. But the sea is silent. Time after time. Visit after visit. And with each trip to a differing shoreline passing, Jon finds himself closer and closer to a life changing revelation: To land, or, to sea.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Little Black Dress – Linda Palund

What’s it all about?:

The brutal murder of a beautiful girl in a little black dress sparks our teenage heroine’s quest to find the killers. But what was the secret of the little black dress? Why did the gorgeous Carmen wear that dress to school every single day?
Her best friend Lucy is determined to solve the riddle of “the little black dress” as well as solve Carmen’s murder. She risks her life and the lives of her friends in her search to find the savage killers.
The setting is West LA, an area of privilege, where wealth rules under sunny skies.
This is a short novel, but it has everything in it, sex, drugs, gruesome murders and even a ghost.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Girl With The Blue Umbrella – Heather Awad

What’s it all about?:

This is the author’s first collection of poetry. In her poems, she incites the mind with crisp and prose-like descriptions. She has a craft for peering into the human spirit and capturing it in moving depictions. Along with touching the heart, she will make you smile with just the right amount of whimsy to keep it moving and light. This is a poetry collection for anyone who has been intimidated by poetry. Its uncomplicated, crystal-clear imagery will change your mind about poetry forever. It’s poetry for the poet in us all.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) Necropolis – Guy Portman

What’s it all about?:

Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council. Dyson is intelligent, incisive and informed. He is also a sociopath. Dyson’s contempt for the bureaucracy and banality of his workplace provides ample refuge for his mordant wit. But the prevalence of Essex Cherubs adorning the headstones of Newton New Cemetery is starting to get on his nerves.

When an opportunity presents itself will Dyson seize his chance and find freedom, or is his destiny to be a life of toil in Burials and Cemeteries?

Brutal, bleak and darkly comical, Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct, health and safety obsessed world in which we live.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Random Books.

The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti

Published July 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Bursting with imaginative exuberance, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY by Hannah Tinti has been described as ‘One part Quentin Tarantino, and one part Scheherazade‘ (Ann Patchett) and will appeal to fans of The Sisters Brothers or The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter Loo to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past – a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving me on NetGalley for this fantastic novel in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, this story was one amazing, crazy ride and I loved every moment of it. When I first saw the title of this book, I immediately compared it in my mind to The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August which was a book I reviewed with my sister Chrissi Reads and is also one of my all-time favourite books. Let me just say that The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley is nothing like Harry August when we consider the subject matter but it’s just as thrilling and written just as beautifully and is definitely a book I would re-read in the future.

This novel focuses on two main protagonists – widower Samuel Hawley and his daughter Loo whom he is raising on his own after his wife, Lily died shortly after Loo was born in a terrible accident on a lake. The “twelve lives” of the title are actually twelve bullets that have struck Samuel at different points in his life in various places in his body. We, the reader learn the story behind each individual bullet, how Samuel came to be shot and what the consequences were for him. Interspersed with the bullet stories is also the story of Samuel’s relationship with his wife Lily and, after she gave birth to his daughter, the story of Samuel and Loo. Samuel has made a lot of mistakes in his life (well….come on, he’s been shot twelve times?!) but he has a fierce love for his daughter and would go to the ends of the earth to protect her. Unfortunately, this means he always has to sleep with one eye open as his chequered and colourful past is threatening to catch up with him.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from this novel but it certainly wasn’t this and I was delighted to discover a gritty, exciting and incredibly unique plot with fascinating characters that make it difficult to put the book down. In the synopsis, it’s compared to Quentin Tarantino and Scheherazade by Ann Patchett and I couldn’t have put it more perfectly myself. There are violent, bloodthirsty and graphic scenes combined with moments of such tenderness that it almost feels like you’re reading a very modern day fairy tale minus the magical realism. Samuel and Loo were such intriguing characters to read about and although they were both flawed and a bit kooky I literally didn’t want to let them go by the end of the novel. On the strength and pure beauty of Hannah Tinti’s story-telling I will one hundred percent read anything she writes and now can’t wait to read her debut novel The Good Thief.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Broken Branches – M. Jonathan Lee

Published July 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to publisher Hideaway Fall for sending me a copy of this fascinating novel in return for an honest review when I contacted them and expressed my interest in working with them. Hideaway Fall are a new independent publishing company based in Yorkshire and aim to support local and Northern based authors who write kooky, unique and astonishing fiction. Broken Branches is the first novel that they have brought out and if their future projects are anything like this, I’m so excited for their future and am honoured to have the opportunity to be part of it all, giving a little bit of attention and publicity to novels like this that fully deserve to be read and enjoyed.

Broken Branches is the extraordinary and incredibly eerie story of Ian and Rachel Perkins and their young son as they inherit Ian’s old childhood home, the aptly named Cobweb Cottage after a family tragedy. The novel is told from two different time periods, the “present” Ian and Ian when he was a younger boy, growing up in the cottage with his mother, distant and gruff father and older brother, Stuart. The reader finds out quite quickly that for generations, there is thought to have been a curse on the Perkins family which all began with an incident involving an imposing sycamore tree outside the front of the house and has led to multiple past deaths and terrifying incidents.

Ian is attempting to investigate the so-called “family curse” by re-tracing his family tree, accumulating documents related to his family and attempting to piece together what has actually happened in different generations of the family. As the project becomes more overwhelming, he becomes more obsessed and determined to crack the mystery and, as a result, his marriage suffers with both partners becoming relative shadows of themselves. To add to their woes, Ian is experiencing strange things within the cottage – hallucinations and strange noises, increased awareness of an alien presence and a very real sense that something is very wrong and dangerous within his home. As Ian scrambles to find out as much information as possible, things continue to spiral downwards for the family and we start to really wonder how much of what is happening is real and how much is just pure superstition?

I had read a few wonderful reviews of Broken Branches before contacting Hideaway Fall and they all made it obvious that this was a book I just had to read. I was fairly prepared for it going to some dark places and dealing with some tough issues but what I hadn’t realised is the extent of the murky depths that it would take me to. We see grief, loss, depression and pure horror in all their guises and not only did the author explore these themes with real panache but he also put a lot of heart and soul into what can be a very tricky and emotive subject matter. I certainly was not equipped to deal with the creepy, superstitious side of this novel and at quite a few points in the narrative, I was a bit loathe to turn out the lights! Finally, I love going into a story thinking I know what it’s going to be about and then the author does something to throw me off, surprises and delights me and has me looking at certain events, characters etc in a completely new light. In fact, when I finished this book, I immediately wanted to go back to the start and read it in light of new information that was revealed. If you like fiction that chills you, moves you and makes you want to keep turning the pages you should definitely try Broken Branches, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Broken Branches is released by Hideaway Fall publishers on the 27th July 2017.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Pointe – Brandy Colbert

Published July 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

What did I think?:

Pointe by Brandy Colbert was one of my Chrissi Cupboard Month picks a while back now and recommended as a “must-read” book by my sister who is also a blogger over at Chrissi Reads. I remember when she first read it and reported back and she had a very visceral and emotional response to the story so I was intrigued as to whether I would feel the same. On finishing it, I can definitely see why she had that response. This novel is packed full of difficult and dangerous subject matters that could be quite tough to read about for some people. Ultimately, it wasn’t a five star read for me but it was a solid, memorable piece of fiction that I still remember months down the line after reading it.

This is partially due to our main character, a young girl called Theo. She has had a lot of drama and personal struggles in her short life so far including an eating disorder and difficult first relationship and has had to deal with her best friend, Donovan being abducted and secreted away where she cannot reach him. She is starting to get her life back on track, feeling brave enough to date boys again but her real passion in life is dancing and she is in the tough process of training to be a prima ballerina. When Donovan unexpectedly returns however, it dredges up a host of memories that Theo does not welcome and is definitely not prepared for. Has her friendship with Donovan stood the test of time? And can she put old ghosts to rest, start telling the truth, accept help from her close family and friends and finally move on from the past?

As I mentioned earlier, there are some awful subjects tackled in this novel. So, trigger warnings for eating disorders, abuse, drugs, cheating, manipulation….to name a few, the author has covered the entire spectrum of potentially damaging incidents that any person would be terribly unlucky to suffer! Theo may not be a particularly likeable character for some readers but I found her refreshingly real and even though she was flawed and made multiple mistakes and questionable decisions, the whole point of the novel is watching her adapt and grow into an adult who learned from what she had been through. It’s a gritty, dark story that does pull on your heart strings and unsettle you but is entirely worth the murky moments when we see how far our characters have come. Finally, I also loved that our main characters were black (hooray for a bit of diversity!) but their race was never fussed over or exaggerated. As it should be, of course!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0