Book Review: Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date:  August 2017

After observing to the trickling tap of evidence and following the flow of the accidental intervention, I’m afraid to say I wasn’t entirely swept away by the torrent of intrigue I had been expecting.

The theme for this book IS a terrific idea. I can’t deny the mystery surrounding Melody and her distinctive toy called Poggy (half pig, half dog) captivated my attention because it did, very much so. I craved the answers, but I’m thoroughly ashamed to say I began skim reading to find them – which is something I never, ever do.

Whether that’s due to the pure combo of unfortunate coincidences from day one of Cara Burrows arrival at the five star Arizona resort, the punishingly long excerpts from TV reports, and the particularly annoying guest who morphed into an excitable amateur detective in the unofficial ‘Did You See Melody?’ investigation, I genuinely couldn’t say.

Let’s put such trifling details into perspective though, as this story has all the juicy ingredients of a compelling story line and the ending itself offers yet another intriguing puzzle to ponder – yep, I had to read the last couple of pages twice just so I could process it!

And yet this review is one of the more difficult I’ve ever tried to write. To be completely honest I’ve been in two minds whether to publish my thoughts on the blog after struggling to convey this book’s positive / negative balance. On reflection I can only conclude it’s more a case of the reader (myself) clashing with the writing style rather than anything to do with the plot, as I’m more than happy to rate it a solid 3/5 well deserved stars for that alone.

What I’d really like to know is: have YOU seen Melody yet? I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has… #ISawMelody

Rating:  3/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title via Netgalley. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to read it and provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

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(Courtesy of Author’s website)

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling writer of psychological crime fiction, published in 32 languages and 51 territories.  In 2014, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, Sophie published a new Hercule Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which was a bestseller in more than fifteen countries.  In September 2016, her second Poirot novel, Closed Casket, was published and became an instant Sunday Times top ten bestseller.

In 2013, Sophie’s novel The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards.  Two of her crime novels, The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives, have been adapted for television and appeared on ITV1 under the series title Case Sensitive in 2011 and 2012.

Sophie has also published two short story collections and five collections of poetry – the fifth of which, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the 2007 T S Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A-level and degree level across the UK. From 1997 to 1999 she was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, and between 1999 and 2001 she was a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. She is forty-five and lives with her husband, children and dog in Cambridge, where she is a Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College.

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Book Review: The Magician’s Lie, by Greer Macallister #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  3rd April 2017

the-magicians-lie-my-review

the-magicians-lieThe Magician’s Lie explores the life story of a famous fictional illusionist who possesses a phoenix complex, having the ability to re-invent herself by rising from the ashes of her early traumatic life. While some traumas she can never escape others she must exploit to her best advantage. If only her astonishing performance skills and notorious abilities could conjure a solution to her current circumstances.

We’re transported to Iowa 1905 and Officer Virgil Holt is watching the performance of the Amazing Arden from the very back of the theatre. Her act is not like any other insomuch as she is the main attraction, not a predicable stage accessory to provide a useful distraction when required.

It’s evident she can hold an audience in the palm of her hand as they are in awe of her exploits, waiting patiently for her grand finale where she appears to cut a man in half. Shortly after the breath-taking scene Holt learns that an actual man has been savagely murdered and his body crudely concealed inside one of the props, which is not looking good for the Amazing Arden considering the ‘Halved Man’ act he’s just witnessed and that Arden has amazingly ‘disappeared’.

We learn that Holt has received disturbing news about his health which he’s reluctantly putting off telling his wife as he travels home for the evening.  Perhaps that’s why he’s the perfect person to stumble across the suspect quite by chance; he’s got some time to kill and the person in his custody has a very special story to tell.

It’s no mean feat to narrate the majority of the tale leading up to the murder from the uncomfortable surroundings of a small town police station: two people, one room, and events that conspired to lead us to this point in time. The conversation cleverly switches to scenes that occurred when her early dreams grew and faded, the sadistic cruelty of a family member she was forced to endure, and the mother who just wouldn’t listen. This didn’t feel like a usual interrogation between lawman and a suspect but more like a curious therapy session, as she was secured to a chair with several pairs of handcuffs rather than reclining on a couch.

From the beginning I was captivated by her intimate, heart-breaking, courageous story, including the intricate details of the illusions she perfected and the dogged determination of a survivor who refuses to give up. I believed the stage was being prepped as her best trick was yet to come, alas the grand finale didn’t quite materialise and I can only assume that the intended conclusion was overshadowed by my own expectations. I would have also liked a certain ‘talent’ to be explored because it wasn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon. Regardless of whether it was medical or indeed truly magical I’d have loved to know more.

Perhaps this is the magician’s ‘lie’. On the surface she’s just an ordinary woman with the extraordinary ability to enthral an audience, her distinctive dual-coloured eye making her wholly unforgettable. This particular illusionist puts on a show that has you hanging on her every word, and as her account ends at daybreak she allows you to draw your own conclusions.

Rating:   3/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title, for which it was my pleasure to read and provide an unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

the-magicians-lie-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A USA Today Bestseller

‘[A] well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel…’ —Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

‘This is a book in which storylines twist, spiral and come together again in an ending as explosive as a poof of smoke from your chimney… or a top hat.’ –Oprah.com

‘Smart, intricately plotted… a richly imagined thriller.’ —PEOPLE magazine

‘This debut novel is historical fiction that blends magic, mystery, and romance.’ —Boston Globe, Pick of the Week

‘It’s a captivating yarn… Macallister, like the Amazing Arden, mesmerises her audience. No sleight of hand is necessary. An ambitious heroine and a captivating tale are all the magic she needs.’ —Washington Post

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. But one night she swaps her trademark saw for an axe. When Arden’s husband is found dead later that night, the answer seems clear, most of all to young policeman Virgil Holt.

Captured and taken into custody, all seems set for Arden’s swift confession. But she has a different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless, and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding.

A magical and mysterious historical thriller, perfect for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants.

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the-magicians-lie-author-profile

(Courtesy of Publisher’s website)

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel THE MAGICIAN’S LIE was a USA Today and MIBA Indie bestseller, an Indie Next, LibraryReads, and Target Book Club Pick, and was chosen by guest judge Whoopi Goldberg as a Book of the Month Club main selection. It has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films.

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Book Review: Gibbous House, by Ewan Lawrie #GibbousHouse

Publisher: Unbound Books

Publication date: 12th January 2017

gibbous-house-my-review

gibbous-house-cover-jpgGibbous House is an architectural curiosity. It’s an imposing feature on the landscape and is home to guests that require urgent psychological assistance. From the moment you step inside a world of decaying morals, Gothic ambience and the author’s quick wit, you will find fate dealing a shocking hand to those blissfully unaware of the game they are playing. 

Ah, that brings me to Mr Alastair Moffat. He’s oddly charming for a murderous scoundrel and has a flippant sense of humour, even under most testing circumstances. He is motivated by the prospect of gaining something at no cost to himself, so you can probably guess he was over the moon to receive news of a potential windfall via his late wife. An inheritance destined for Arabella Coble suggests great fortune awaits him at Gibbous House. Eager to discover more Moffat signs papers in the presence of the estate’s lawyer, without the burdensome task of reading them, and thereby claims ownership of the property and all the quirky responsibilities that go with it.

The domain of the deceased, Septimus Coble, should provide anonymity from Moffat’s parasitic past while providing him with a very lucrative future.  Yet the most important item listed among his new assets is something referred to only as ‘The Collection’. The cadaverous-looking staff offer a unique welcome to the new arrival and although their roles are unclear at first it’s entertaining to watch the penny drop as the nature of his inheritance becomes clear. 

It’s was an amusing prospect to learn that the activities at Gibbous House are potentially worse than Moffat’s – I mean, could anyone have less scruples?! Dining is a theatrical spectacle, only to be further enhanced by Mrs Gonderthwaite’s miraculous culinary fayre which is served by her feral children of unclassified parentage. There’s his new ward too and it’s uncertain whether Miss Pardoner has developed a facial twitch or is winking at him. Other fixtures include a dwarf professor who needs to be constantly reminded who the new master of the house is, and poor Maccabi, a reluctant stooge at Moffat’s command. SUCH a fabulous cast!

This lair of sinister indulgence encourages you to consider the welfare of a man who hasn’t a shred of conscience. But far from Moffat presenting himself as a victim, his attitude could come in handy when he interrupts the cloistered ethics of Gibbous House.

The plot is an absolute stunner but, and this is a very, very minor thing, the closure wasn’t as striking as I’d have hoped for. After almost 450 pages of a cracking build up it didn’t have quite the impact I was expecting, given the rest of the tale I’d just savoured that is. What you can be sure of are continuous japes from a treasure trove of oddballs who appear right on cue.

Yep, I quite enjoyed this one!

Rating:   4/5

Source:  My own purchased copy, as a result of pledging my support for its publication via Unbound Books.

gibbous-house-book-summary

(Courtesy of Unbound Books Website)

What if Oliver Twist had uncontrollable, murderous urges? What if Pip’s great expectations were suddenly overturned by a mad scientist’s plot for world domination?

You wouldn’t be reading Dickens – but you might be reading Gibbous House.

Moffat is a character in the full Dickensian mode – a carefully drawn and verbose criminal thriving in the underbelly of 19th century London. When he unexpectedly inherits Gibbous House, an estate in Northumbria, he heads north on a journey that raises questions about his own identity and quickly leads to issues of morality, addiction and murder.

Gibbous House, Moffat discovers, already plays home to a motley cast of characters: the beautiful and seductive Ellen Pardoner, the conniving attaché Maccabi and the arrogant scientist Enoch – manager of the mansion’s esoteric ‘collection’. Moffat’s greed-fuelled pursuit of his inheritance takes him deep into a crazed, conspiratorial plot and a series of tense, psychological showdowns.

Gibbous House is intelligent, cryptic and brimming with historical detail. The book combines suspense and mystery with comic asides to Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens – adding an engaging modern irony to the rich texture of the classic Gothic novel.

Why settle for Nicholas Nickleby when you can have a Victorian Psycho?

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gibbous-house-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Ewan Lawrie spent 23 years in the Royal Air Force. He began writing during long boring flights over desert countries. His stories and poetry have been published in several anthologies. Gibbous House is his first novel.

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Book Review: A Dangerous Crossing, by Rachel Rhys

Publisher: Doubleday UK (Transworld)

Publication date: 23rd March 2017

a-dangerous-crossing-my-review

When someone has seen you at your lowest you share something with them that is almost impossible to define and harder to undo. [Quotation taken from a proof copy.]

Departure:          29th July 1939. Tilbury Docks, Essex

Lillian Shepherd experiences conflicting emotions as she boards the Orontes on an assisted passage to Australia: waving goodbye to her family as she braces herself to travel alone VS the anticipation and that delicious lure of escape from her past traumas.

a-dangerous-crossing-by-rachel-rhys-coverDespite reassurances, it appears England is on the brink of war as a fusion of difference and ignorance is thrust together for five long weeks. During her travels, Lily keeps a diary of her on-board exploits and writes regularly to her folks to keep up with news from home. As the distance between her and the English shore grows their replies bring old news, which is an unnerving prospect when you can’t be sure the world has changed by the time you reach your destination.

Lily’s adventure carries the pressing temptation to rub shoulders with a couple from the upper class deck who have taken her under their wing. Second guessing the motives of her ludicrously odd companions among the tiered system of nobodies, wannabes and the recently scandalised is a mine field in itself. Some of them are just so damned persuasive and besides, if the alternative is spending time with your matronly cabin-mate and her disapproving glare you’d be tempted to ‘forget the pecking order’ and join them too.

It was astonishing to witness the pristine etiquette, mesmerising scenery and enchanting company being swallowed up by the claustrophobia creeping along the deck. There’s no escaping people you grow to dislike or mistrust and sooner or later they will catch up with you, if only to introduce you to your new friend ‘paranoia’.  

The intensity of the voyage becomes unbearable at times, but also offers encounters from the admirers Lily attracts, usually without encouragement. Doubts about the extraordinary bonds that are being forged are reinforced as her companions temperaments bob up and down in time with the ocean, while extraordinary secrets are channelled into the journey at well-timed intervals triggering a looming sense of unease. 

Arrival:                 4th September 1939. Sydney, Australia

Lily has successfully visited the ports of misery, heartbreak, prejudice, and deception.

A Dangerous Crossing is a journey I’ll never forget. I greedily read this book in two sittings, about the same time Lily took to determine the measure of one or two people she dined with! The stunning narration and authentic sense of era effortlessly transported me from one side of the world to the other, although I’m pleased to report my reading journey was infinitely more agreeable than the experience of some of the passengers on board the Orontes.

Highly recommended!

Rating:  5/5

(A review copy of this title was kindly provided by Alison Barrow of Transworld Publications for which is is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

a-dangerous-crossing-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever.

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world on board: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realises her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

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a-dangerous-crossing-author-profile

(Courtesy of Publisher’s website)

RACHEL RHYS is the pen-name of a successful psychological suspense author. A Dangerous Crossing is her debut under this name and is inspired by a real life account of a 1930s ocean voyage. A Dangerous Crossing is due to be published around the world. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.

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Book Review: The Eskimo Solution, by Pascal Garnier

Publisher:  Gallic Books

(Please note that Gallic Books will merge Twitter accounts with Belgravia Books from 19th September 2016.)

Publication date:  12th September 2016

The Eskimo Solution MY REVIEW

The Eskimo Solution by Pascal GarnierThis is my third Pascal Garnier experience and I cannot quite believe how unique they all are! These short ‘life parodies’ pluck the dark trains of thought that run through the mind of ordinary folk to create a bizarrely addictive and screwball read.

Firstly, why the title? Well, as loosely described in the book, The Eskimo Solution is a way of disposing of elderly relatives by leaving them out on the ice to expire before they become a burden on their families. An effective, if somewhat, mercenary way of solving a problem I grant you, but this is the basis for the tale.

The anonymous narrator of this story has created a character in a crime novel he’s writing who bumps off people’s relatives and allow them to inherit early, rather than allow nature to take its course.  As things progress you begin to wonder where Louis, the fictional serial killer, ends and the narrator begins. The traits of the unnamed author and his creation’s traits start to resemble each other so closely that is difficult to separate them at times.

They both have trouble with their relationships, each have creative outlets, and are struggling to tell people what they really think causing them to react in unexpected ways. Only one doesn’t resort to severe criminal activity to clear the air, although I strongly suspect that given the right set of circumstances he wouldn’t take much persuading.

Everyday absurdities allow the writer’s sharp wit and some cracking one liners to shine, as once again he projects his keen observation of situations onto the page. They often they incorporate maiming, murder, and something that’s gone very, very wrong with someone’s personality. These warped versions of ordinary life are so fresh and intriguing that they appear almost freestyle, like there was little planning at all – and I mean that in a good way!

While the circumstances of these thoroughly individual books appear run-of-the-mill on the surface, there’s always something disconcerting waiting to break through. The writing spins the mundane around so it points in an unsuspecting direction entirely.

I’m never quite sure where the next Pascal Garnier experience is going to take me and for this ‘surprise element’ I’d be more than happy to read another one tomorrow.

Rating:  4/5

My reviews for other Pascal Garnier titles:

Too Close to the Edge

The Front Seat Passenger

(I received an invitation to provide an unbiased review for this title from the publisher via NetGalley, and I was delighted to oblige. My thanks sincere to them.)

The Eskimo Solution BOOK SUMMARY

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Life imitates art in Pascal Garnier’s offbeat tale of a crime writer and the murderous protagonist of his novel.

A crime writer uses the modest advance on his latest novel to rent a house on the Normandy coast. There should be little to distract him from his work besides walks on the windswept beach, but as he begins to tell the tale of forty-something Louis who, after dispatching his own mother, goes on to relieve others of their burdensome elderly relations events in his own life begin to overlap with the work of his imagination.

Emily Boyce (Translator) (Author), Jane Aitken (Translator) (Author)

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The Eskimo Solution AUTHOR PROFILE

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon.

Gallic Books published the second of Garnier’s novels, ‘How’s the Pain?’. ‘The Panda Theory’ was published in March 2012 and described by The Guardian as ‘bleak, often funny, and never predictable’. The A26 followed in January 2013.

Find out more about this author and his work from the PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE .

Book Review: Black Water Lilies, by Michel Bussi

Publisher: W & N

Publication date:  30th June 2016

Black Water Lilies - My Review

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi - Kindle CoverObsession and deceit feature heavily in this moody dual-time mystery to create a cleverly plotted literary canvas that is, Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi.

The scene is artfully set from the page one. Layer upon layer, jealousy, regret and resentment are slowly worked into the picture by a bitter widow, who daubs her narration with the introduction of two other females she knows a disturbing amount about. The story encircles the trio who are at different stages of their life: our lonely old woman, the young and cripplingly talented Fanette, and Stephanie, the temptress teacher of art. Living in Giverny, home of Monet’s famous garden, they’ve heard the whispers of the enigmatic masterpieces that some people would do anything to get their hands on. Between them they know a lot of other things too.

Immediately there’s a sense of a hidden agenda, the burden of which has been painfully carried forward into the here and now. Virtually invisible from her vantage point in her old four story mill, the widow shares her observations of the unfortunate events surrounding a murder that bears the hallmarks of a suspicious death that occurred years earlier and her reflections are tinged with bitter emotion.

She has extensive inside knowledge of the claustrophobic village with its long stay residents; their comings and goings, which relationships grow, wither, or expire. She gives the impression that the villagers are merely figures trapped in a landscape that’s been replicated a thousand times.

The widow allows you to see only what she wants you to see, when she wants you to see it. This way she prepares you for the slow, tantalising reveal of a secret known only to the trio. But what specifically drives her to orchestrate things from a safe distance? A craving for drama? Revenge? Surely she would have more important things to consider than watching and waiting, given her own husband’s recent demise?

Also under surveillance and guiding the investigation into blind alleys is the oddest, most inappropriately behaved police chief, who had me convinced he was Inspector Clouseau’s second cousin. I adored the author’s previous book, After The Crash, so I couldn’t wait to get my grabby hands on Black Water Lilies, yet initially I began to wonder what the chuffing point was. There I was going round in frustrating circles when everything came into focus. I could kick myself for how cunning Black Water Lilies had been – the dots were all there, I just hadn’t been joining them!

I bet you’re none the wiser after reading this, are you? Gosh, I’m sorry. I honestly can’t say any more without massively spoiling the overall effect of this tale, except how its vivid imagery and passionate outbursts of village life are strategically staged to achieve maximum impact.

Rating: 4/5

(Huge thanks to the publishers for kindly permitting a digital download of this book, via NetGalley.)

Black Water Lilies - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Giverny. During the day, tourists flock to the former home of the famous artist Claude Monet and the gardens where he painted his Water Lilies. But when silence returns, there is a darker side to the peaceful French village.

This is the story of thirteen days that begin with one murder and end with another. Jérôme Morval, a man whose passion for art was matched only by his passion for women, has been found dead in the stream that runs through the gardens. In his pocket is a postcard of Monet’s Water Lilies with the words: Eleven years old. Happy Birthday.

Entangled in the mystery are three women: a young painting prodigy, the seductive village schoolteacher and an old widow who watches over the village from a mill by the stream. All three of them share a secret. But what do they know about the discovery of Jérôme Morval’s corpse? And what is the connection to the mysterious, rumoured painting of Black Water Lilies?

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Black Water Lilies - Author Profile

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

Michel Bussi is the author of eight bestselling thrillers. In 2013 alone, his books sold half a million copies in his native France. He has won fifteen literary awards, making him one of France’s most prestigious crime authors. When not writing fiction, he is a Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. Un avion sans elle is his first book to be published in the UK.

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Book Review: The Body Under the Bridge (A Father Gilbert Mystery, Book 1), by Paul McCusker

Publisher:  Lion Hudson   |   Publication date: 20th November 2015

Body under the Bridge My Review

The Body Under The Bridge - Kindle CoverAn exquisitely written murder mystery of a mild paranormal persuasion, that’s the best description I can muster for this book! Being drenched in local history, longstanding family feuds emerge to take centre stage. With a nod toward a deathly curse, a trio of curious artefacts connected to Cromwell are sure to bring tragedy to the door of St Mark’s Church.

Father Gilbert’s ex-detective instincts battle with his logic after a series of disturbing visions are bestowed upon him. Following the death of his wife, his faith is forever intact and he’s ever the professional, taking his duties seriously. So when he is called to the aide of a parishioner, who is threatening to jump from the tower of the church, he rushes there without delay. What awaits him is a distraught fellow by the name of Colin Doyle, who after an odd conversation exchange, hands Father Gilbert a gold medallion. Shortly afterwards, Doyle jumps to his death. Gilbert calls for his staff to assist, but peculiarly there is no body and it’s determined that Colin Doyle could not have jumped, as he was discovered later, hanging in his garage at home.

And then a body appears on Lord Haysham’s land, a body under a bridge. It’s clear it’s been there since a bygone era.  The ground had already been disturbed before the police arrive on the scene, pressing a further investigation as to why.

More sinister experiences later for both Gilbert and those around him, it seems pentagrams are becoming a popular theme after being discovered at the scene of the most recent crimes. This, plus the rivalry of two families spanning centuries are keeping a so-called curse alive, threatening to haunt Father Gilbert and bring St Mark’s into disrepute. Even the police investigators are competing against one another. It seems this case is bringing out the worst in everyone.

Through sheer tenacity, together with Father Benson’s chauffeuring skills and the watchful eye of the church secretary, who throws a cold stare at the flirtatious artefact expert, Mary Aston, Gilbert must restore order and get to the bottom of the so-called resurrected curse. The task is made more difficult as he is expending precious energy trying to resist Mary’s charms. Gilbert just needs to remember to take a service every now and then before his secretary becomes even more restless!

Exactly how far will the killer be prepared to take their duty is anyone’s guess. One thing’s for sure, good and evil will clash swords and the lives of those who remain connected to the investigation hang precariously by a thread. The paranormal connotations are subtle yet enough to make an impact, and given the church’s unofficial investigation it goes without saying there’ll be references to religion, but it’s not presented in a preachy tone.

This is a genuine, brooding mystery concerning an inheritance that no one wants. The drama unfurls magnificently, with a dash of witty dialogue and a wonderful host of varied characters it kept me engrossed. If you like your crime approached in a traditional way while still having some meat on its bones, then you won’t go far wrong with A Body Under The Bridge.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Rhoda at Lion Hudson for providing this atmospheric-looking paperback copy for review. Much appreciated.)

Body under the Bridge Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A former Scotland Yard detective, Father Gilbert knows about death. But, now a priest of a modest Anglican church in the small town of Hailsham, he didn’t expect it to show up like this – in the suicide of a man who threw himself off the church tower, and in the discovery of a two-hundred-year-old body beneath an ancient bridge.

The deaths are linked. The mummified corpse under the bridge, a murder victim, reignites a centuries-old battle between two local families – the Todds and the aristocratic Hayshams. Then both David Todd and Lord Haysham begin to act strangely. They are fearful for reasons they won’t explain.

When Lord Haysham is murdered, David Todd is the prime suspect. But Todd is acting maniacal, claiming great forces of evil are at work. An entire history of violence and depravity begins to emerge – interweaving the history of several local families with a secret occult society that engages in Black Masses. Has the Society emerged again?

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Body under the Bridge Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Paul McCusker is Creative Director at Focus on the Family. He has sold more than a million books and twenty million audio dramas. His name is also heard daily on radio stations all over the world, and by at least two million listeners every weekend through the Adventures in Odyssey series.

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Book Review: The Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, by Donna Fletcher Crow

Publisher:  Greenbriar Book Company  |  Publication date: 5th February 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (Review Copy)

Crimsoned Reliquary Book Review

A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary by Donna Fletcher CrowYou’d rather hope that a monastery in Oxford would be a place of sanctuary. Unfortunately, that’s not in the case for Father Antony Sherwood and his American fiancée, Felicity.

Although I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, I get the impression they have Jessica Fletcher-esque inquisitive natures have an uncanny knack of attracting trouble wherever they go (not intentionally, I might add!).

In The Newly Crimsoned Reliquary our amateur sleuthing duo face a desperate situation when ancient relics are being desecrated and the severed body parts on display are much fresher than one would expect. There is a missing nun to contend with, a crisis at the convent press, coupled with personal attacks on the sisters with whom Felicity is working with to transcribe a medieval manuscript of significant historical interest. As time ticks on, it seems there are more sinister forces at working against the sisters.

Whilst the manuscript provides it’s own challenges, Father Antony hears that a member of his family is suffering from ill health he faces a crisis of his own. In honouring his duties to the parish and having to confront a personal matter and his past he is forced to spend more time away from Felicity than he would like under circumstances.

With a solid plot and a few suspicions without huge twists, this is more of a gentle paced and relatively tame mystery. Although it’s set in the present day there’s no profanity of any kind. At times, historical or biblical passages were quoted during sermons as a feature of dialogue or services throughout. These contributed to the overall atmosphere, but I did feel the duration of them had a tendency to dwell a little too long and some moments became a little swamped under their weight.

This is the 4th book in a series entitled ‘The Monastery Murders’. I read this as a stand-alone, but there’s obviously been a progression of Father Antony and Felicity’s relationship during the other books in the series, as references are made to it this time round. I can’t say jumping right in with this book effected my overall enjoyment, but I may have appreciated our main characters sleuthing background more if I’d read the others in the series first.

There’s no doubt that the author is considerably knowledgeable in religious history, the intricate details of which make for a fascinating read. It was nice to step away from the more graphic fiction that I have become accustomed to for just a moment, as this offered a more relaxing reading experience.

I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a cosy mysteries, or has an historical or ecclesiastical interest.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the author for kindly providing a paperback copy of this book for review in exchange for an honest review.)

Crimsoned Reliquary Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Who will be the next victim of the murderer stalking the shadows of Oxford’s hallowed shrines? Translating an ancient document in an Oxford convent should be a harmless venture, but Felicity just can’t seem to avoid danger. It’s hardly Felicity’s fault that severed body parts start showing up in ancient holy reliquaries. Or that Felicity and one of the nuns is assaulted. Felicity’s curiosity leads her to wonder why the nuns are in danger. Or why an ancient document would appear to be at the heart of the matter. Her expertise is called upon, and she quickly realizes that there is a lot at stake when others stand to gain, from what at first glance, appears to be a minor point of law, long forgotten. Her life is made busier when Antony arrives in Oxford with a group of students. Although she’s happy to see him, he is surprised that Felicity has forged an uneasy friendship with his estranged sister. Then Antony is called home when an uncle dies, Antony realizes that hurt feelings must be laid to rest if his relationship with his sister is to improve. Left alone at the convent, the exultation of All Saints’ Day plunges to the anguish of grief on All Souls’, when Felicity discovers yet another body, forcing her to ask: Who will be the next victim of the murderer stalking the shadows of Oxford’s hallowed shrines?

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Crimsoned Reliquary Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels of British history drawing on her own family background and extensive research trips. Her best-known work is GLASTONBURY, a Grail Search epic covering 1500 years of English history. She now specializes in crime fiction with The Monastery Murders, a series of Ecclesiastical thrillers and The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries, a romantic suspense series. You can read more about her and her books at http://www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com

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Book Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle, by Darin Kennedy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press  |  Publication date: 12th January 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

The Mussorgsky Riddle Review

The Mussorgsky Riddle

The Mussorgsky Riddle is a cleverly constructed mystery. It takes a trip down a very sinister yellow brick road in time to the musical score of a piano suite entitled: Pictures at an Exhibition written by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky.

Young Antony Faircloth is a special lad with talents beyond anything we could understand. It’s been suggested he has Asperger’s or Autism, as he doesn’t communicate well with the outside world with the exception of his younger sister.

Recently he’s been obsessing over his favourite thirteen note passage of music written by Mussorgsky, rocking gently to the tune as he continuously hums it. His symptoms appeared to escalate after a family trauma where his brother’s girlfriend has gone missing and his brother is under suspicion.

His mum has been taking him to visit Dr Archer, a child psychiatrist, to see if this will reopen the door to allow his mind to return to us, but it’s soon revealed that it will take someone with extra talents to unlock his thoughts.

Here’s where our exceptionally gifted Mira Tejedor comes in. Previously having assisted the police in finding a young girl alive and returning her to her family, Antony’s mum has also contacted Mira hoping she can help where Dr Archer cannot, by applying her unique gift for seeing into people’s psyche.

Mira’s gift is met with opposition and scepticism and yet she proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can delve deep inside Antony’s mind. The result of her intervention will be more challenging than she first thought, when their two worlds collide with surprising consequences.

The phases of solving the riddle evolve during a visit to the ‘Mussorgsky Exhibition’ within Antony’s mind. Each portrait is a stage of the music’s movement and the residents of the portraits represent the people close to the boy, although they are crone-like, gnomish or some other fantasy creature in his world. The exhibition takes on a life of its own as survival instinct kicks in, offering subtle clues to Mira who is playing her own part and sees her battling the exhibition’s nemesis, Baba Yaga, an old witch, also featured in the musical piece.

Outside the child’s head the motives of a few people need to be questioned, people close to the boy. But will they give Mira the chance to dig deeper? Will she alienate her own daughter in the process, as her ex is muscling in while she tries desperately to gain Antony’s trust? And who is the menace conjured by his mind preventing anyone from discovering the truth?

The characters face challenging situations throughout and the fragile pieces of an astonishing puzzle will only slot together if Mira can interpret the cryptic journey that Antony’s mind is conducting.

The Mussorgsky Riddle is surreal, utterly fascinating and suspenseful to boot, making this an absolute marvel of a read. 

Rating: 4/5

(Enjoyed this one. It’s different. Many thanks to the publishers, Curiosity Quills Press, for getting in touch and providing a digital copy for review purposes.)

The Mussorgsky Riddle Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind. Thirteen-year-old Anthony Faircloth hasn’t spoken a word in almost a month and with each passing day, his near catatonic state worsens. No doctor, test, or scan can tell Anthony’s distraught mother what has happened to her already troubled son. In desperation, she turns to Mira for answers, hoping her unique abilities might succeed where science has failed. At their first encounter, Mira is pulled into Anthony’s mind and finds the child’s psyche shattered into the various movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical music suite, Pictures at an Exhibition.

As she navigates this magical dreamscape drawn from Anthony’s twin loves of Russian composers and classical mythology, Mira must contend with gnomes, troubadours, and witches in her search for the truth behind Anthony’s mysterious malady. The real world, however, holds its own dangers. The onset of Anthony’s condition coincides with the disappearance of his older brother’s girlfriend, a missing persons case that threatens to tear the city apart. Mira discovers that in order to save Anthony, she will have to catch a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets contained in Anthony’s unique mind from ever seeing the light.

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The Mussorgsky Riddle Author Links

You can connect with author Darin Kennedy here:

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 *** A little background information, in case you’re interested… ***

Following the sudden death of his friend and artist Viktor Hartmann in 1873, Modest Mussorgsky was inspired to write piece of music entitled Pictures at an Exhibition. The artist’s work was exhibited in Russia in 1874. The music follows an imaginary tour of an art exhibition. The movements in the composition take their titles from paintings by Viktor Hartmann.

It’s astonishing to think that Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in just six weeks…

Click HERE to listen to the piano version on You Tube.


Book Review: Holy Island – A DCI Ryan Mystery (Book 1), by L J Ross

Publication date: 1st January 2015   |   Edition: Kindle (Review copy courtesy of the author)

Holy Island My Review

Holy Island by L J RossA wicked crime will always crave a special location to give it the darkest edge, and a location that is steeped with deep religious significance can only succeed in heaping more mystery on the occasion. In this story, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne ironically proves to be the perfect place for pure evil to thrive.

Following an earlier case that has affected him personally, a moody, troubled detective chooses to stay on the Island to recover. DCI Ryan had no idea he would soon be on hand to investigate the murder of a member of this quiet community. It was a lucky break for the islanders to have his expertise on tap.

T’was the season to be jolly, yet everyone is now looking over their shoulders wondering who could have committed such a heinous crime. Their concerns are amplified, as the tide cuts them off from the mainland at regular intervals and it’s likely that the suspect is still walking among them.

Following the manner in which a young girl met her death, and given the symbolism of Lindisfarne’s historical and religious background, the suggestion of Paganism raises its head. As an invisible menace plagues the daily routines of the islanders, the finger of suspicion is being pointed in all kinds of directions.

The author has certainly worked the setting to its full advantage, being cunning enough to conceal the perpetrator’s identity until the very last. Although, we do get to ‘hear’ from the anonymous menace periodically as they offer their smug thoughts in what is a brilliant, disapproving tone, particularly when considering the manipulation of lesser mortals. I tried to keep an eye on the close-knit community throughout the investigation, but they were all looking pretty shady and I just couldn’t pin the right suspect down!

The crime/mystery side of this book worked exceedingly well. I couldn’t fault it. Alas, things changed for me when Ryan’s supposed love interest was introduced when a consultant and ex-resident of the island is hired to assist with the case, bringing more baggage with her than you’d find in airport. Given their bullish behaviour toward each other I was initially intrigued how life would pan out for them. That was until any relationship they might be heading for started to overshadow the reality of the investigation. I decided to side-step any hint of cheesy sentimentality that was developing to prevent it getting in the way of an otherwise gripping storyline.

Yes, yes, you may think my heart is colder than the brickwork of Lindisfarne Priory. But this, coupled with a touch of ‘cliché cop’ speak in places, is why I’ve agonised for a few days over the rating I would give. (Between a 3.5 to 4).

All-in-all this is a VERY worthy start to a new crime series. For anyone who does like a romantic side to their fiction it’ll kill two birds with one stone, by merging the two results in a sort of ‘cri-rom-combo’, or a ‘crombo’ perhaps? I’d certainly be curious to read the next in the line-up, Sycamore Gap, to discover what is in store for DCI Ryan and co., especially after being left with that rather intriguing ending!

Rating: 4/5

(I must thank the author for kindly providing a free digital copy of this book for review. Thank you for getting in touch via the blog, it’s very much appreciated.)

Holy Island Book Summary

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a homicide detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory. When former local girl Dr Anna Taylor arrives back on the island as a police consultant, old memories swim to the surface making her confront her difficult past. She and Ryan struggle to work together to hunt a killer who hides in plain sight, while pagan ritual and small-town politics muddy the waters of their investigation. Murder and mystery are peppered with a sprinkling of romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set on the spectacular Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, cut off from the English mainland by a tidal causeway.

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Holy Island Author Links

Louise Ross

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, LJ Ross moved to London where she graduated from King’s College London with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Law. After working in the City as a regulatory lawyer for a number of years, she realised it was high time for a change. The catalyst was the birth of her son, which forced her to take a break from the legal world and find time for some of the detective stories which had been percolating for a while and finally demanded to be written.

She lives with her husband and young son in the south of England, but will always be a northern girl at heart.

Her first book, “Holy Island”, has consistently been listed as an Amazon bestseller since its release in January 2015 and hit the Amazon UK Kindle #1 position in May 2015. Its sequel, “Sycamore Gap” was released on 11th September 2015. She is currently working on the third book in the DCI Ryan series, which should be available in early 2016.

If you would like to connect with LJ Ross, she would be very happy to hear from you:

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Books by L J Ross