“Devil’s Kitchen” by Stephen Puleston

A double murder in the Snowdonia Mountains. A police procedural, prequel novella that introduces a freshly promoted Detective Inspector. A stunning cover.  All of these things attracted me to this book.

Ian Drake has only been a DI for a month.  He is married and the father of two young daughters. His wife, Sian, doesn’t understand the demands of his new position and is jealous of his time spent away from her and their two daughters.

His second in command, DS Caren Waits, couldn’t be more different to Drake, in work ethic, mannerisms, and personal habits.  He is fastidious to the point of OCD, she is rather slovenly.

“The glorious scenery of North Wales couldn’t hide the darker side of humanity”.

Cwm Idwal walk

Near the end of September, two bodies have been found at one end of Cwm Idwal in the Snowdonia mountains. One obviously a murder (kitchen knife protruding from her chest), the other subject to question. The victims are husband and wife, Jack and Denise Trainor. Everyone, including Drake’s boss, think that this case has all the hallmarks of a crime of passion. Husband kills wife, then filled with remorse, jumps to his own death.

Drake suspects this is oversimplifying, and thinks there may be more to this crime than is immediately apparent.

DI Drake is normally my type of copper. He cares about his job, he is a bit quirky, and he is the exact opposite type of personality to his sergeant. However… I didn’t warm to him at all.  I cannot explain it…

I loved the setting, how could you not?  The mystery plot was well executed, but the overall mix left me quite underwhelmed.  I wonder if it was in part to sentences such as these?

“The Trainors seemed well read and educated so it puzzled Drake why anyone would have wanted to kill them.”

Seriously? I don’t see the connection.

Though many factors of this series appeals to me, I have decided that I will very likely not be following it any further.  Others may overlook some of the things that I found jarring, and those people will likely have found a new favorite author. This is just a short read, so give it a try and see for yourself if you feel this is a series worth pursuing.

Stephen Puleston was born in Anglesey, an island off the north Wales coast and after leaving school in Holyhead he went to University in London before training as a solicitor/lawyer. He practised in a small family business doing criminal work in the magistrates and crown courts, divorce and family work.
He still lives on Anglesey, North Wales near the beach and the mountains of Snowdonia.

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“Stella’s Christmas wish” by Kate Blackadder

With only two weeks until Christmas, I was in the mood for a ‘feel-good’ Christmas themed story.  This book delivered my wish.

Stella grew up on the Scottish Borders in a tiny town called Melrose.  Her parents were killed in a plane crash when she was small, so Stella and her younger sister, Maddie, were brought up by her paternal grandmother, Alice.  Unlike her artistic sister and grandmother who still live in Scotland, Stella is the more level-headed of the three, and now works as an accountant in a busy London firm.

Just a week before Christmas she receives a telephone call saying that her dear grandmother Alice has had a nasty fall from a ladder and has been rushed to an Edinburgh hospital.  Despite a looming work deadline, Stella drops everything and travels north.

With trepidation, both about her grandmother’s condition, and the possibility of meeting up with her ex-fiance Ross, she finds herself back in the town of her youth.  She and Ross broke up just about the time that Stella procured her job in London. Ross is now a successful restaurateur in Melrose. It was Stella’s decision to sever her ties with Ross, and she never really explained to him why she did.  Ross has never understood her move to London, and he has never gotten over her…

With her younger sister inexplicably in Australia, it is up to Stella to care for her grandmother. Stella is happy to be home again as living in London would never have been her choice. Her reasons for going were complicated…

Visiting Alice in the Edinburgh hospital brings back many fond memories for Stella of a time when she and Ross were still a couple, and very much in love.

The setting of this novel was a delight, and the characters endearing. I did want to shake a few of them quite a few times, only because they were putting themselves through unnecessary torment by keeping their secrets and their feelings to themselves… Misunderstandings abound.

The writing seemed a bit awkward at first, but smoothed out as the novel progressed. The reader wonders what could possibly have caused Stella to move to London and break-up with Ross. And why has Maddie traveled all the way across the world to Australia?  She can’t afford it, she didn’t let Stella know she was going, AND she’ll be there over Christmas!

Reading a book like this, well… you know that all the problems faced by the characters will eventually resolve themselves.  Predictable, but then you know that going in.  Christmas comes but once a year, we can predict that, but it doesn’t make it any the less enjoyable.

This is a charming Christmas novel that will be appreciated by anyone who likes the work of Kate Hewitt or Rosamund Pilcher.  A ‘feel-good’ love story set over the Christmas season, and a heart-warming testament to the importance of family.


I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Black & White Publishing via NetGalley. I chose to write this review.

Kate Blackadder

Kate Blackadder was born in the Scottish Highlands and now lives in Edinburgh with a view of the Castle. Since she took up writing in 2005 she has had three serials and over forty short stories published, mostly in women’s magazines. Two serials, The Family at Farrshore and The Ferryboat are now available in large-print library editions, and she brought out a collection Three’s a Crowd and other family stories in 2016. Among other competitions, she has won the Muriel Spark Short Story Award (judged by Maggie O’Farrell) and was long-listed for the Jane Austen Short Story Award. Stella’s Christmas Wish is her first full-length novel.

Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, debut novels, Love stories, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“The shivering turn” by Sally Spencer

“The Shivering Turn” introduces ex-policewoman turned private investigator, Jennie Redhead, and is set in the historic British city of Oxford.  From the northern county of Lancashire, she studied at Oxford herself and got her degree in English Literature. And guess what? She IS a redhead! She views the fact that her hair matches her name to be a curse she is forced to endure.

Of her family Jennie says: “We allowed our worries and fears, our angers and resentment, to quietly fester away beneath a veneer of amiability“.  Her emotion-starved home life has made her distant in her relationships. Of her father she said that he lived a life “in which joy was sacrificed on the altar of respectability“.  Of her mother, when she is being annoyingly repetitive “She repeats, as if repetition can easily kick the shit out of logic any day of the week.

Jennie left the Thames Valley police when she discovered one of her superiors to be corrupt. She still has a few contacts within the police, one of whom is DS George Hobson, her friend and former lover.

Not yet thirty years old, Jennie is struggling to make ends meet when she is hired to find Linda, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Mary Corbet, who just happens to be married to Tom Corbet, an inspector with Thames Valley Police.

Jennie reluctantly begins investigating and discovers that Linda was somehow involved with one of the University’s myriad student societies named “The Shivering Turn Society”. The society was named for a poem by metaphysical poet Robert Cudlip.

“And dare you face your urges and desires,
Embracing both the good and bad you own,
Or will you, like a cold and errant coward
Abandon all and make a shivering turn?”

Jennie enlists the aid of Charles Swift, St. Luke’s College’s bursar, an old friend from the time she was a student there herself. Travelling about the historic city on her trusty bicycle, Jennie also visits the Bodleian Library to do some research on the poet.

While interviewing members of the Society, Jennie discovers them to be arrogant, privileged, wankers. Their leader, Crispin, excels at making others feel inferior, and he delights on showing everyone how clever he is.

I loved how the author inserted a brief line or two to connect Jennie Redhead to Monika Paniatowski, one of his other successful series protagonists.

Written with finesse and a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour, “The Shivering Turn” was a very enjoyable mystery with more than one ironic plot twist. The setting and time period (May 1974) were integral parts of the story line, and the characterization was well wrought.  The second book in the series, “Dry bones” is due to be published in February 2018. This is a series I plan to follow!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publishers, Severn House via NetGalley in consideration of my honest review.

Sally Spencer is a pen name, first adopted when the author (actually called Alan Rustage) was writing sagas and it was almost obligatory that a woman’s name appeared on the cover. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a teacher.

He lived in Madrid for over twenty years, and still considers it the most interesting and exciting city he has ever visited, but for the last few years he has opted for a quieter life in the seaside town of Calpe, Spain.

He has written twenty books featuring DCI Woodend (a character based partly on a furniture dealer he used to play dominoes with) and ten (so far!) about Woodend’s protegé Monika Paniatowski.

His DI Sam Blackstone books are set in Victorian/Edwardian London, New York and Russia, and the Inspector Paco Ruiz books have as their backdrop the Spanish Civil War.

Alan is a competitive games player who likes bridge and pub quizzes. It is only by enforcing iron discipline that he doesn’t play video games all the time.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Miserly Monday #6 (#Kindle ebook bargains)

Only two bargain Kindle purchases this week.

These books might vary in price from Amazon.ca to Amazon.com to Amazon.co.uk but they are all still BARGAINS!  Probably about what you would pay for a cup of coffee.

NOTE: The price tags now reflect the U.S. and Canadian prices. (Apologies to my U.K. followers as the price will not display for me on Amazon.co.uk)

Click on the price tag to go to the Amazon.com link for the book.

Note: I do NOT receive any remuneration from Amazon.  These are just Kindle deals that I have found and want to share with my fellow book lovers. 

So, here goes my sixth Miserly Monday…


Blurb: Since being widowed, Caroline Dering has been content to live her life solely for her children: her beloved son, James, due back soon from Malaya, and her daughters, Leda and Bobbie. 
Then the mysterious Robert Shepperton arrives in the village.
At first, Caroline’s gentle heart is simply touched by his obvious unhappiness; until gradually she finds her sympathy turning into love.
But the visit of her lovely younger sister, Harriet, to Vittoria Cottage, throws Caroline into a turmoil — because Harriet also falls for Mr. Shepperton …
It was not until now, when she thought she had lost Robert, that Caroline discovered how much he meant to her … she looked back and tried to determine exactly when her friendship for him had grown into love.
But it seemed to Caroline that she had loved him always.
She loved him in all sorts of different ways: she admired his character and enjoyed his humour, she felt an immense tenderness towards him and her heart beat faster when he was there. These feelings were so strong that they were difficult to disguise …
But with her beloved, glamorous sister Harriet evidently winning his friendship and admiration, what can be done …?
Vittoria Cottage is a charming Scottish romance. It is followed by Music in the Hills and Shoulder the Sky.


Blurb: Alva is a sad and lonely child. With her father locked up in prison, she moves with her mother and two older sisters to an apartment building in town. She does not like her new home. Her room is small and her sisters continue to exclude Alva from their games.

Soon a bizarre murder takes place in the building. A husband discovers his wife dead in the hall of their apartment, two weeks after she disappeared from their home.

Where had the body been hidden for two weeks? And how could the perpetrator get in and out of the apartment?

As more disturbing things start to take place, Alva is drawn into a sick and twisted game by a killer who is hiding in plain sight. But Alva is just a child and has no idea just how deadly her new friend might be…

The Man in the Wall is a thrilling and stylish Scandinavian thriller.


 Have YOU found a great Kindle bargain this week? If so, please share in the comments.

Posted in ebooks and ereaders, Miserly Monday | Tagged | 4 Comments

An A-Z of those I own

This idea was the brainchild of Margaret (Books Please) and was introduced to me by Sandra (A corner of Cornwall).

It sounded like such fun, that I just had to join in. It serves as an enjoyable way of inspiring those with lengthy TBRs to whittle down the titles that are languishing unread on our physical shelves. The plan is to post through the alphabet, choosing books whose titles begin with each letter.

My virtual shelves are overflowing, and I usually read on my Kindle. That being said, my physical shelves are also full to the brim and it is about time I addressed all of the unread titles resting upon them.

I’ve had all three of these books for YEARS! I’ve read other books by all of these authors and I really enjoyed them. So… I’m showing you the edition that is on my shelves, and telling you the other book by this author that caused me to collect their work.

  “Apologizing to dogs” by Joe Coomer

I especially loved this author’s “Pocketful of names

 

 

  “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett

I truly enjoyed her “Commonwealth

 

 

  “Coming home” by Rosamund Pilcher

I absolutely loved this author’s “The shell seekers

Next installment? D-F

Don’t hold your breath though, because I promised myself I wouldn’t write up that post until I’ve read all three of these…

 

Fun eh?  I wonder how much time will go by before I write a D-F post?

Do you have any titles living on YOUR shelves that have been there for YEARS?

 

Posted in Choosing what to read next, home libraries | Tagged | 20 Comments

Author Dan Buri shares his creative writing tips (Guest post #writingtips )

Today I’d like to welcome Dan Buri to Fictionophile.  Last summer I had the opportunity to read and review his book “Pieces like pottery“, so I was excited to hear that he has now written a book packed with writing advice – to encourage aspiring writers.

Take it away Dan!

Writing a book is hard. If you’ve written a book before, you know this. If you’re dreaming to write a book, you have a mountain to climb, and you should understand that before you begin. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write your first novel! Or your second novel! Or third! If your book is good, it should be hard to write. That’s not something from which you should shy away. Most things in life that are worth doing are hard.

I’ve found with anything in life that’s difficult, the best way to approach it is to break it into pieces. Figure out how to write your book in steps. You can’t tackle everything at once, so break it up into actionable pieces that you can accomplish. Soon, as you complete one step after another, you will be holding your own book in your hands.

If you’ve read my first book, Pieces Like Pottery, you’ll recall one of the lead characters found a list of forty life tips from his former high school teacher, Mr. Smith. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from readers on these forty life tips. They seem to resonate deeply with people. In my blog (Nothinganygood.com) and in my new book on writing—an inspirational guide for indie authors on their writing journey—I’ve applied each of the forty life tips to writing and how they can help you write, market, and sell your book.

Here is a sneak peek into a few truncated versions of those tips from 40 Tips on Creative Writing:

1) Life’s too short to not seize the opportunities with which we are presented. Always take the chance to do what you love when it comes along. Write that book! Start now! Do you have thirty minutes today? Sit down and start writing.

2) Be quick to show compassion and empathy. When you find yourself suffering from the clichéd writer’s block, take this advice to heart. Put yourself into your character’s shoes. Show compassion and empathy. What is your lead character feeling? Get yourself into the state mind of your character. As much as you can, put yourself in a place where you can understand and feel everything that your character is going through. It’s the skill of the great writer.

3) Don’t dress like a bum all day long. Some people do perfectly well rolling out of bed and doing great things in their underwear all day. I’m not one of those people. If I want to be productive, I prepare for it. Production doesn’t just magically happen. There has to be a plan. Wake up early. Shower. Wear respectable clothes. Eat breakfast. Get your mind right for writing. Then, when you’re good and ready, sit down and write.

4) Don’t be afraid to see dinosaurs even when everyone else around you doesn’t. Anyone who has ever tried to write anything of worth, and for that matter any creative type who has ever tried to make something out of nothing, knows how exciting and scary that can be at the same time. Take that excitement and fear and use it. Don’t worry about how others say you’re supposed to write. Write the way that you want to write. Sure, soak in all the advice and feedback from writing experts and amateurs alike. Take it all to heart. Let it wash over you. Then filter it through that beautiful brain of yours and write the way you feel called to write.

5) Have a routine, but avoid being routine. Having a routine is good. We just finished agreeing not to dress like a bum all day long. This is part of planning to be productive. Having a routine and a schedule can ensure that you are actually writing and not just dreaming about it. But don’t let that routine control you. Follow it as far as it will lead on the road of utility, but the moment you hit a dead end and it’s no longer useful, break away from it. Avoid being routine.

I know writing a book (or another book) can be difficult, but there is a huge author community out there ready to support you. Let me help you get your book finished and increase your sales. This is just a small taste of the valuable tips and inspiration that has helped other writers meet their goals and follow their dreams. Let 40 Tips on Creative Writing be your inspirational guide to a successful book!

Seize the day you have in front of you. You are strong.

You are kind. You are wonderful. Don’t forget it.

― Dan Buri

40 Tips on Creative Writing is currently available in ebook ($3.97) and paperback ($9.99). It is also available on Kindle Unlimited.


Dan Buri is a trusted resource for writers to gain insight into the difficult world of indie publishing. His first collection of short fiction — Pieces Like Pottery — which has been recognized on multiple Best Seller Lists, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption. His nonfiction works have been distributed online and in print, in publications including Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle.

Dan Buri

Dan Buri is a founding member of the Independent Writers Guild, a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting the interest of indie writers by encouraging public interest in, and fostering an appreciation of, quality indie literature. He is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Oregon with his wife and two young children.

Follow Dan Buri on Twitter @DanBuri777

Visit his website: http://www.nothinganygood.com/

See his GoodReads Author page.

Posted in Authors, Guest post, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

“Sleep no more: six murderous tales” by P.D. James

Finding work by a late author that you have revered is rare. Therefore you can imagine my excitement to see that another collection of stories by the inimitable P.D. James has been published. Last year I read and enjoyed “Mistletoe Murders: and other stories“, this year it is “Sleep no more“. And yes, there IS a murder in all six stories.

The book contains six excellently executed short stories, two of which have a Christmas theme.

“The Yo-Yo”
An elderly man finds a red yo-yo in a box of clutter.  This find spurs memories of the events that occurred when, as a child, accompanied by a teacher, he was shipped off from his boarding school to spend Christmas with his widowed grandmother.

“The Victim”
An assistant librarian plans the ‘perfect murder’ of his celebrity ex-wife’s latest husband. This story has a delicious twist at the end – as do many of the stories in this collection.

“The murder of Santa Claus”
A mediocre mystery novelist tells the story of how his uncle, Victor Mickledore, was murdered one Christmas Eve in an atmospheric Cotswold manor house. A retired policeman, Detective Inspector John Pottinger relates his memories of the case.

“Merry Christmas, Mickledore!
Go to be and sleep no more.
Take this charm and hold it fast;
This night’s sleep shall be your last.”

P.D. James puts her own spin on the classic ‘locked room mystery’.

“The girl who loved graveyards”
An orphaned girl tells of her life living in a house in East London bordering a cemetery. “She didn’t need friends. She had the graveyard and its occupants.” She lives with her aunt and uncle and has no memory of the first decade of her life. All is revealed when she grows up and returns to the village where she was born…

“A very desirable residence”
The story of an art teacher, and the frame-up of the unpleasant math teacher at his school – whose Georgian house he covets.

“Mr. Millcroft’s birthday”
A story that works as a gleeful omen of what can happen when avarice rules your life. It tells of a cunning nursing home resident as he turns the tables on his greedy adult children.

Only P.D. James could write these nostalgic, insightful, sinister, and astute mystery stories.  She portrays murder ‘as a means to an end’ – murder done by ordinary people, but told in a way that is distinctly ‘unordinary’. They are a fine balance between the succinctness of the short story form coupled with James’ famous verbosity. If pressed to pick a favorite story from this collection, I guess it would be “A very desirable residence”.  The irony of the last lines is memorable.

A few quotes that I particularly enjoyed from this book:

“The young seldom lie convincingly. They haven’t had time to practice like the rest of us.”

“Memory is always disjointed, episodic.”

“Marriage is both the most public and the most secret of institutions, its miseries as irritatingly insistent as a hacking cough, its private malaise less easily diagnosed.”

 

I received this book from Knopf/Penguin Random House via Edelweiss in consideration of a review.

f-5-star

p-d-james-older

P.D. James 1920-2014

The late Phyllis Dorothy James was a prolific novelist who was constantly honing her craft right up to her death at age 94 years. Her love of words and description shines through her many novels. She was the recipient of many honors, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and in 1991, she was honoured with the title of Baroness James of Holland Park. In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame.

P.D. James was the author of twenty novels, fourteen of which featured her priggish and contemplative detective, Adam Dalgliesh.

Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, Edelweiss, Mystery fiction, Short stories | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

“The deal of a lifetime” by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman never disappoints, but he may pull at your heartstrings more than a little…

He begins the story in this way: “Does it make a difference if I killed a good person? A loved person? A valuable life? If it was a child?”

The novella features two cancer patients in hospital.  A five-year old girl, and a grown man with an adult son.

The little girl is stoic in the way that only sweet, innocent children can be.  The man faces his prognosis filled with reminiscences and regrets.

Helsingborg, Sweden

All his life he wanted to be a success. To make his mark upon the world – to leave a footprint behind.  He has done that… but at what cost?  He was never a real father to his son, spending next to no time with him and disappointing him time after time.

“Every parent will take five minutes in the car outside the house from time to time, just sitting there. Just breathing and gathering the strength to head back inside to all of their responsibilities. The suffocating expectation of being good, coping.”

He notices a woman with a grey cardigan carrying a folder with a black pencil.  He knows who SHE is. He has seen her before. When his parents died, when his best friend died… Now, she hovers in the corridor of the hospital.  Will she come for him next, or, will she come for the little girl?

The man makes a ‘deal‘ with the woman. What is the deal he makes? You’ll just have to read this charming story to find out…

This is a story about parenthood, about ‘doing the right thing’, about life and death, about love, and about the meaning of ‘home’.  Highly recommended!

Didactic fiction all wrapped up in a Christmas bow !

My request was declined to read and review this title from Atria Books via Edelweiss. However, my love of Fredrik Backman ensured that I purchased the novella anyway.  Money well spent!

 

Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called OveMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are being published around the world in more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, Literary fiction, Novellas, novels in translation, Scandinavian | Tagged , | 14 Comments

“The nesting dolls” by Clare Blanchard

In this series prequel novella, the reader becomes acquainted with Czech police detectives Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky.

The story begins when both detectives are on holiday, Jana in England, and Ivan in Spain. While visiting a gift shop in England, Jana comes across some Mamuska dolls which she buys as a jokey gift for her partner Ivan.  Imagine going all the way to England and finding a set of dolls that closely resemble ones they found at the scene of a previous murder case.

After Jana’s return home, she is back at work when the police are informed that a Czech citizen may have been murdered in Valencia, Spain – very nearby where Ivan Dambersky is holidaying. She calls him to attend the scene.  The dismembered body was found by a jogger and her dog in a Valencian orange grove. The reason the police believed the young female victim to be Czech was the fact that the body wore a distinctive garnet ring, Czech in style.

“Could the ring have been left on the hand deliberately? And if so what was it intended to show? Had the perpetrators in fact wanted the identity of the victim to become known? But then why dismember the body?”

The novella is a tease. It hints at the connection between two of the detective’s cases, but does not bring anything to a conclusion. The plot alludes to art theft, the mafia, prostitution, and more. The detectives discern that the cases intersect in Marienbad, at the famous Chopin Festival. But reader beware, nothing is resolved and no perpetrators are caught. The full novel, called The Forbidden Portrait will be out early in 2018.

I very much enjoyed the two detectives, both alone and when they were together. The setting was an interesting one, and one that I’ve not read much about. The mystery itself was rather convoluted and I only hope all will be revealed in the full novel.

I received a digital copy of this novella from the author via Instafreebie in consideration of my review.

Clare Blanchard was born on the windswept and beautiful north-east coast of England. She has spent half her life in Europe, mainly in a wine-growing region with lots of history, beautiful architecture and local culture. She writes crime noir mysteries set in the wine country of Central Europe, where her two detectives, Dvorska and Dambersky, are based. But they wander around quite a bit as well. They turn up in the UK, and Spain. She just can’t seem to pin them down. What’s the point of having characters if they can’t surprise you?
Her crime stories have a strong historical thread running through them. She also writes historical mysteries.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, Novellas | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cover Love: part 42 – Railway tracks

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In my forty-second installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature railway tracks on their covers.

A good idea for a novel’s cover. Railroad tracks give the feeling of other lives elsewhere, other experiences, journeys.  Like railway tracks, FICTION can take you to those other worlds and experience those other lives…

Tracks can lead you far from home OR they can bring you home again.


Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!


Are you tempted by any of these covers?

If you have a few minutes visit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 18 Comments

“The guise of another” by Allen Eskens

Having never read any of this author’s work before, I had no expectations going in. Perhaps, on reflection, that is how we should approach all titles we have for review – but that is impossible. Anyway, the long and the short of it is – I really enjoyed The guise of another“.

Essentially a suspenseful police procedural, the novel features two Minneapolis policemen, brothers Alexander and Max Rupert.  Max, the older brother has an upstanding and respected reputation on the force. Alex, the younger brother is a Medal of Valor recipient, who has recently fallen from grace. Suspected of having taken thousands in dirty drug money, he is awaiting a grand jury hearing which will decide if he will be exonerated or, sent to prison. Once respected by his fellow officers, he is now ostracized – an outcast. Once his wife was proud of him, now she barely tolerates his presence. Now he languishes in the bowels of City Hall wasting his detective skills, working on the Forgery and Frauds Unit.  That is… until a metro traffic fatality changes his world.

Third Avenue Bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The victim, a James Erkel Putnam, turns out to have stolen someone else’s identity, and the case comes to the attention of the Frauds Unit and Alex Rupert. Mysteriously, the last words that the man going by the name of James Putnam spoke were “find it… before… they… find her”.

Alex’s investigations discover that the real James Erkel Putnam vanished in New York in 2001. When he travels to New York, he meets up with a female cop, Louise (Billy) Rider, and together they discover that the man’s real name was Jericho Pope.

“Secrets, deception, betrayal and lies”

Delving further into the history of Jericho Pope brings intrigue and danger to Alex’s life, and by association, everyone he comes into contact with. Pope was hiding a massive secret, one that some would kill to have stay hidden…

One of those ‘bad’ men, the worst of the lot, is a Serbian assassin named Drago Basta. A character who was easy to loathe, who by his coldness and complete lack of respect for human life, made him almost like a caricature.  Drago works for ex-CIA operatives who have gone into business for themselves and fund a private mercenary army.

As Alex learns more about the Jericho Pope case, his marriage deteriorates further, making him susceptible to the advances of ‘James Putnam’s’ live-in girlfriend. As his life begins a page-turning downward spiral, the reader is immersed in Alex’s investigation and the moral quandary he is faced with. The ending to the book held break-neck suspense, and I felt while reading it that the story would make an excellent action/thriller movie.  I feel the novel would be equally attractive to male and female readers, and that the action and suspense were mesmerizing, though at times ‘over the top’.

The only thing that let the book down, in my opinion, was the utter inhumane character of Drago.  No morals, no emotions, just a cold, killing machine.  A character so far outside my purview, that he seemed unreal to me.  I liked the Rupert brothers, and the New York policewoman, Billy Rider.

I would suggest that anyone who enjoys the novels of Lee Child, Vince Flynn, or Michael Connolly, will most likely enjoy “The guise of another“.  With themes of blackmail and avarice, this high action thriller is recommended. I will definitely read another book by this author, though I would have to be ‘in the right mood’.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publisher, Seventh Street Books via Edelweiss in consideration of this review.

 

Allen Eskens is the award-winning and USA Today–bestselling author of The Life We Bury, The Guise of Another, and The Heavens May Fall.

A criminal-defense attorney for twenty-five years, he lives with his wife in Minnesota, where he is a member of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Men's fiction, Page turners, Suspense | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Hello December! (Fictionophile updates + November’s #bookhaul)

December is such a busy month in our family. Not only the lead up to Christmas, but also the month of two family birthdays.  My daughter was born on Christmas Eve, and my brother-in-law on Boxing Day.

Every year at this time, I encourage everyone I know to read this lovely poem in order to get into the spirit of the season.

“A cup of Christmas tea” by Tom Hegg

I received three titles from NetGalley in November

I received ONE title from Edelweiss in November An anthology of twenty short stories from the wonderful Peter Robinson.

AND
I was invited to read and review Peter May’s latest novel!
(love this author!)Blurb:

Husband and wife Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own Ranish Tweed: a Hebridean company that weaves its own special variety of Harris cloth, which has become a sought-after brand in the world of high fashion. But when Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair with Russian designer Irina Vetrov, then witnesses the pair killed by a car bomb in Paris, her life is left in ruins.

Along with her husband’s remains, she returns home to the Isle of Lewis, bereft.

The Paris police have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – making Niamh the prime suspect, along with Irina’s missing husband, Georgy. And so French Detective Sylvie Braque is sent to the island to look into Niamh’s past, unaware of the dangers that await her.

As Braque digs deeper into the couple’s history, Niamh herself replays her life with Ruiairidh, searching her memory for those whose grievances might have led to murder. And with each layer revealed, and every unexpected twist uncovered, the two women find themselves drawn inexorably closer to a killer who will not turn back.

So FIVE more review commitments in November. I am valiantly trying to get my TBR under control and I’m working toward my 80% NetGalley badge.


I was excited enough about these two new titles that I just HAD to share them with you!

The fabulous Sharon Bolton has a new thriller coming out in April 2018! I am highly anticipating this title as I have loved everything she has written thus far…

Blurb: Devoted father or merciless killer?
His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start
to repeat themselves. Did she get it wrong all those years ago? Or is there something much darker at play?


AND…

William Shaw (author of “The Birdwatcher“) has a new title coming out in May 2018! This novel is the first in a series featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi, and is set on the Kent coast.

Blurb:

No-one knew their names, the bodies found in the water. There are people here, in plain sight, that no-one ever notices at all.

DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty.

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.

It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

 Early in the month of November I received some fabulous book post!

I was the lucky winner of a giveaway hosted by Kerry Parsons at “Chat About Books“.

My win?  “The visitors” by Catherine Burns published by Legend Press.

(“The visitors” is posing on my newly completed lap blanket which I made for reading at the cottage on chilly days)


So, all in all, November was a great month for my blog. Thanks to all my fellow book bloggers who have been SO very supportive, and who share my posts via Twitter, etc.

Fictionophile now has 2,139 followers.  Thanks all!

Posted in Fictionophile report, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

“Quick and the dead” by Susan Moody

Quick and the dead” is the first in a mystery series featuring art expert and ex-copper Alexandra Quick.

Alexandra is thirty-three years old, divorced, and on her second career. She, and her friend and business partner Helena Drummond, work jointly to produce high-quality art book anthologies with corresponding relevant stories.  Helena is older than Alex, flamboyant, eccentric, and more than a bit of a ‘cougar’. She is an art historian and works as a professor at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

University of Kent at Canterbury

When Helena fails to turn up at a very important meeting with a prospective publisher, Alex’s ex-copper senses are immediately roused.  After the meeting she goes to Helena’s house, only to find that there is a dead, and very savagely mutilated, woman in Helena’s bed.  Of Helena, there is no trace…

As Alex begins her own investigation into the mysterious woman’s death, she wonders where her friend Helena could possibly be. She knows in her heart that the police are wrong in their supposition that Helena is the murderer. She also carries guilt due to the fact that Helena had told Alex she was being stalked – and Alex had dismissed her concerns due to the fact that Helena was a bit of a drama queen.

The murder victim turns out to be someone from the art world. Amy Morrison had just released a highly successful book about an Italian painter. Due to the fact that she was universally disliked, was “cold and heartless”, the list of possible suspects to her murder is rather a long one.

“By all accounts, the only person Amy had loved was Amy”.

There were several parts of this story that I really enjoyed.  I liked the scenes between Alex and her friend Sam who owns a nearby bookshop, also the scenes between Alex and her less than nurturing parents. I loved the scenes (though they were far too few), of Alex looking after her brother’s rescue dog, the Airedale terrier, named Anton.

I found this book to be escapist mystery.  By that I mean it was an easy read, but that the characters and the various threads of the plot just didn’t mesh in the way I wanted them to.  A woman as supposedly intelligent as Alex, who was one of the youngest ever police Detective Inspectors in the country, surely wouldn’t resign from her career over a man??? She professes to have ‘chronic sadness’, after her miscarriage and divorce, but her actions do not bear this out. The plot, though interesting, was in my opinion, rather far-fetched.  That being said, my attention was held throughout, with no significant lags in my interest. Though I quite enjoyed this novel, I cannot in all honesty see me pursuing the Alexandra Quick series. In short, this was an entertaining, though less than plausible mystery novel.

 

 

This review is my way of saying thank-you to Severn House publishing house for providing me with auto-approval for their titles offered on NetGalley.

Susan Moody was born and brought up in Oxford. Her first crime novel, Penny Black, was published in 1984, the first in a series of seven books featuring amateur sleuth Penny Wanawake.

In all, Susan Moody has published 34 novels, most of them crime and suspense.  Susan spent two years as a Creative Writing Tutor in Her Majesty’s Prison, Bedford.  She is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association, serving in all as a CWA Committee member for seven years.  She is a long-standing member of the prestigious Detection Club and served for three years as the President of the International Association of Crime Writers.

She has written under the names Susan Moody, Susannah James, and Susan Madison. These are all pseudonyms for Susan Elizabeth Horwood.

Susan is married to mathematician, Professor John Donaldson, who has three daughters and one son, as well as twelve grandchildren.  Susan has one grandchild of her very own.  She divides her time between south-west France and south-east Kent.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Miserly Monday #5 (#Kindle ebook bargains)

 

Another three bargain Kindle purchases this week.

These books might vary in price from Amazon.ca to Amazon.com to Amazon.co.uk but they are all still BARGAINS!  Probably about what you would pay for a cup of coffee.

NOTE: The price tags now reflect the U.S. and Canadian prices. (Apologies to my U.K. followers as the price will not display for me on Amazon.co.uk)

Click on the price tag to go to the Amazon.com link for the book.

Clicking on the book’s cover will take you to Goodreads.

Note: I do NOT receive any remuneration from Amazon.  These are just Kindle deals that I have found and want to share with my fellow book lovers. 

So, here goes my fifth Miserly Monday…


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blurb: Rosie Goodison is not one to shy away from life’s problems. Whether it’s finding work or challenging injustice, Rosie squares her shoulders, sets her chin high and faces it full on.

Born at the end of the nineteenth century, in the rural south of England and sent into service aged just twelve, Rosie quickly discovers that many good people spend their lives toiling for very little reward, whilst others ‘have it all’.

She decides it won’t be like that for her. Why can’t she ride in a car? Why can’t she work when she’s pregnant? Why can’t she live in a nice flat? Why can’t she be an artist’s model?

Whilst working as a housekeeper for two upper-class boys, Rosie starts to learn more and more about the world, gleaned from overheard conversations and newspapers left lying around. This triggers an ongoing thirst for knowledge, which shapes her views, informs her decisions and influences her future.

Rosie aspires to have a better life than that of her parents: better living conditions, better working conditions and pay, better education for her children, to be able to vote, to be able to control how many children she has…

Without realising it, this young woman is blazing a trail for all those who are to come after.

Whilst working in London, Rosie meets her sweetheart Jim, but the The Great War puts paid to their plans for the future, and matters worsen afterwards, as she, along with the rest of society, tries to deal with the horrors and losses.

This heart-warming story follows the events of the early twentieth century – the impact and horrors of WW1, the financial crisis and the rapid social and political changes that took place.

All that remains of Rosie now is a quartet of paintings in an art gallery. The artist, now famous but the model, unnamed and forgotten; nobody of consequence.

But everybody has a life story. Everybody leaves some kind of mark on this world.

Everybody’s somebody.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blurb:  Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.

As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe. Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?

Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Falk series #1

Blurb:  After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.


Have YOU found a great Kindle bargain this week? If so, please share in the comments.

Posted in ebooks and ereaders, Miserly Monday | Tagged , | 8 Comments

“House. Tree. Person” by Catriona McPherson

It is an understatement to say Alison McGovern’s family has had some setbacks. Once, they had a lovely house, she owned a thriving beauty salon called ‘Face Value’, and her husband, Marco, took over his successful family restaurant.  But… Marco had other ideas. He wanted more – his ideas were grand, but he ended up taking their house AND her business along with his, when he overextended himself financially by borrowing against their assets. Now Alison, Marco, and their teenage son, Angelo live in a tiny rented cottage living on the cheapest of groceries and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Their circumstances seem to be ‘on the up’ when, within just a few days of each other, they both procure employment. Ali gets work as a beautician/art therapist at an independent psychiatric hospital situated in the Galloway countryside.  Her beautician experience was embellished on her resume, and she feels a sham, but the excellent salary offered causes her to push her guilt to the recesses of her mind. Despite her lack of psychiatric knowledge about her new position, she seems to form an immediate bond with one of the residents of ‘Howell Hall’. Sylvie has been diagnosed as having hysterical catatonia – but she reacts to Ali’s kind advances.

“Touch is a problem for British people and maybe Scots most of all. We’re not huggers. But gentle touch can do wonders for someone feeling the ache of loss or loneliness.”

She begins to enjoy the work, despite herself, but senses that there are many secrets being hidden at Howell Hall.  Nothing is quite what they would have you assume…

“What was the rottenness at the heart of Howell Hall?”

The title of the novel references a psychiatric test called “House. Tree. Person.” in which the patient is asked to draw these three things in order for the doctors to assess their personality.

The reader is made aware that Alison has a dark secret in her past. We know that she had been emotionally unwell, and that she herself had been hospitalized for six months – years ago. Her husband Marco is constantly referring to her past illness with jibes like “when you weren’t so great”, or  “don’t go down that road again”. The reader is also made aware that Alison is estranged from her parents, who live in France. Alison’s son Angelo, though moody and uncommunicative, demonstrates that he wants to protect her.

“that strange couple of days when they found the remains and we got jobs and for some reason the good news turned us sour instead of sweet.”

Dundrennan Abbey

With only the first day of work at Howell Hall under her belt, Ali returns home to their cottage to find that there has been a body found in the grounds of the Abbey across the lane. Her son, Angelo makes a strange remark when the body is discovered. “I’d just about given up, as it goes.”  This grisly discovery sets her life, and the lives of those she loves on an escalating and devastating spiral that will leave none of them unscathed.

This book was an excellent read – but extremely difficult to review as it would be only to easy to divulge too much of the plot and ruin it for future readers.  Suffice it to say that I loved it just as much as a previous novel by this author that I read several years ago, “The day she died“. The characters are so real that you feel you’ve met them before. The dialogue flows seamlessly, and to say the setting was atmospheric would be an understatement. The plot was complicated, yet had a brilliant resolution. Everything I like best when reading a thriller. Very highly recommended by me!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Midnight Ink via NetGalley, and was delighted to be able to write this review.

Note: This novel was published in the UK by Constable under a different title: “The weight of angels“.  Both titles fit the novel’s content superbly, though if I’m honest I do admit I prefer the UK cover over the North American one.

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the author of the Dandy Gilver historical mystery series, which was nominated for a Macavity Award in 2012.   She moved to California in 2010 but she returns to Scotland every year for a wee visit to quell her homesickness.

She is now a full time writer.  When not writing, she is reading, gardening, cooking, baking, cycling , and running.

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments