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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah


The Monogram Murders


I have to admit that when I first heard there was going to be a new Poirot book, I was slightly dubious. But that was before I realised it was Sophie Hannah who would be writing it. I love Agatha Christie, I love Poirot, and I love Sophie Hannah. What’s not to like?

So as the time of the release date got nearer, I got more intrigued about this book and was thrilled when HarperCollins offered to send me a review copy. I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived – I loved it and read it in one sitting.

Sophie Hannah made some crucial decisions in the writing of this book, which I think are at the heart of why it works so well. Firstly, she gave Poirot a new sidekick/narrator in the form of Edward Catchpool. This gives a sense of freshness to the narration, and sits well with the blending of Sophie Hannah’s voice and Agatha Christie’s voice.

But Catchpool is not just a device to show the reader how clever Poirot is, he is a real character with a past and concerns of his own. Why is he so haunted by the murders he has to investigate, and why is he so troubled by the hands of the dead. ‘Hold his hand, Edward.’

We also find Poirot living, not in Whitehaven Mansions, but in the lodging house of Mrs Blanche Unsworth. It turns out that Poirot is lying low in order to give his formidable mind a rest. This results in his meeting Catchpool, but also takes him out of the environment in which readers are used to seeing him. It works well because had he been left in Whitehaven Mansions, the reader would have been expecting Captain Hastings or Miss Lemon to turn up with every turn of the page.

As you’d expect of an Agatha Christie, and indeed a Sophie Hannah, there’s a murder with an ingenious twist to be investigated in this novel. Why have three guests at The Bloxham Hotel been murdered and left with monogrammed cufflinks in their mouths? Who is PIJ and why was a note left at reception saying, ‘May they never rest in peace’?

It’s an engrossing mystery, a complex and satisfying plot, and a great tribute to the Queen of Crime. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of Agatha Christie and Sophie Hannah alike. It is a truly great crime novel.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Love Is All You Need


Love Is All You Need


With any anthology of short stories, one of the most important things is to have a good mix of stories. They shouldn’t all sound the same, and you should find yourself taken by surprise by the selection.

‘Love Is All You Need’ certainly succeeds in this. As Sophie King says of the stories in her introduction: ‘Many stood out in different ways but in the end, I picked those that surprised me and also left a lovely warm feeling.’

The common theme of the stories is love, but it is handled in many different ways.

The beginning of Alyson Hilbourne’s ‘Hot Chocolate Hero’ reads more like an action adventure story, and that promise is certainly delivered on as her unusual theme and an unexpected romance complement each other throughout the story.

In ‘High On Life’ by Yvonne Walus we literally feel the earth move, and in that story as well as Johanna Grassick’s ‘ Rum Truffle’, we experience the emotion of loss as well as that of love.

I absolutely loved Helen Yendall’s trip back in time for her story, ‘The Taste Of Love’ which cleverly recreates the world of Nell Gwyn through the eyes of a young woman working in a Chocolate House in the London of 1669.

You may remember that back in June, when the e-book of ‘Love Is All You Need’ was released, I interviewed Sherri Turner about her contribution, ‘Funny Face’. This story closes the collection and it’s another cracker. It makes a great satisfying end to the anthology and will certainly leave you with a smile on your face. 

This anthology of love stories has something for everyone and I highly recommend it.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

The anthology is now available in paperback as well as Kindle versions, and you can find out more here.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Matter For The Jury by Peter Murphy




A Matter For The Jury


When I read ‘A Higher Duty’ by Peter Murphy, Ben Schroeder was my favourite character. So when I heard that he was going to feature as the main character in a new book I was really keen to read it.

This book sees Ben firmly ensconced in chambers and about to defend a capital murder trial. Billy Cottage is charged with murder and rape, and because a piece of jewellery was stolen in the course for the crime, that makes it a capital offence. Ben, working with solicitor Barratt Davis and his assistant Jess, and QC Martin Hardcastle, a man with more than enough problems of his own, sets out to try to save Billy Cottage from the gallows.

There are some great sub plots supporting the main plot. Ben and his colleagues also have to defend a vicar under suspicion of assaulting a choirboy. Is there more to this than meets the eye? The way this case is handled by Ben and the others sets the scene for later events.

And another thread takes us on a chilling journey to discover exactly what might have motivated someone to apply for the position of public executioner. This is dealt with very factually, which makes it all the more chilling.

One of the subplots also delivers a huge and unexpected twist towards the end of the novel, for which I was totally unprepared.

We also get to see some insights into Ben’s personal life. It is his growing friendship with Jess and events in his own family that lead to some of the most tear jerking and emotional moments of the novel.

I was pleased to see some other characters from ‘A Higher Duty’ reappear in this story. Harriet Fisk is still sharing a room with Ben and provides a foil when he wants to chat about the case, and about their shared past. And Clive Overton, who was such a pivotal character in the first book, has an interesting cameo towards the end.

The repercussions of dealing with a capital murder case take their toll on all involved and this book left me feeling very glad that we no longer have the death penalty in this country, and hoping that no future government, however right wing, will attempt to bring it back.

I really thought this book was a great read and I recommend it to lovers of crime and courtroom dramas. I will be looking forward to more books featuring Ben Schroeder in the future. 

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

You can read my review of 'A Higher Duty' here.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Race To Death by Leigh Russell



Race To Death


I really enjoyed this second outing for DI Ian Peterson – part of the spin off series from Leigh Russell’s original Geraldine Steel books.

A man plummets to his death during the York Races. Suicide or murder?  Newly-promoted DI Ian Peterson is plunged into a complex and high-profile case, and as the body count increases, the pressure mounts for his team to solve the crimes quickly.

From this intriguing beginning set against the vivid backdrop of a racecourse on race day, the story unfolds at a great pace and grips until the end.

Like Geraldine Steel before him, Ian has moved since his last investigation so this book sees him getting used to a new set of colleagues and living in a new place. The relocation throws up challenges for Ian. In particular a new boss who expects results and doesn’t let up on the pressure when she doesn’t get them, and a wife who feels uprooted and discontent in her new environment.

In this case, DI Peterson is up against a criminal with a very complex and unusual MO indeed. Peterson and his colleagues have to solve a series of murders that seem to make no sense and have no link and, as the days tick by with no progress, pressure mounts.

As with all Leigh Russell’s books this one has a great mix of just the right amount of police procedure and a chance for the characters to shine. I was also pleased to see another guest appearance for Geraldine in Ian’s story.

In this book we get some deeper insights into Ian’s personal life, and towards the end things get very personal indeed as the investigation threatens to endanger everything he holds dear.

Overall, I found this a great read. Ian Peterson is a likeable main character and his new sergeant, Ted Birling, provides a great foil and York a great setting.

I recommend this book to crime and thriller lovers, and look forward to more in the series.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

The paperback is released in September, but the Kindle version is available now.

You can find out more here.

You can find my reviews of Leigh Russell’s other books here and here.