blog tour, Book reviews, Gothic horror, Historical fiction

Letters From The Dead by Sam Hurcom – Book Review

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Sam Hurcom’s debut, A Shadow on the Lens, published last year and was described by The Guardian as ‘gothic, claustrophobic and wonderfully dark’. His second book, Letters From the Dead is a complete standalone but follows the same protagonist, Thomas Bexley, who is one of the world’s first forensic photographers. This is a stifling and atmospheric gothic crime novel set in the early 20th century for fans of The Woman in Black, The Silent Companions and Little Strangers.

The year is 1905. After a turbulent year, Thomas Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, haunted by terrible visions of the dead. But when news of a spate of extraordinary kidnappings reaches him, he’s shocked to learn that his dear friend and former mentor, Professor Elijah Hawthorn, is the lead suspect.

Discovering a plea for help from Hawthorn claiming to have unearthed a gruesome conspiracy at the heart of the Met Police, Thomas embarks on a journey to prove Hawthorn’s innocence.

But wherever Thomas goes, he is followed by the dead, and as the mystery of Hawthorn’s disappearance deepens, so too does Thomas’s apparent insanity… How can he be certain of the truth when he can’t trust anybody around him, not even himself…?

MY REVIEW

Letters FromThe Dead is the follow-on from the marvellous, Shadow On The Lens.

Here, Thomas Bexley is still struggling to come to terms with previous events, he is virtually a recluse, drinking himself into oblivion every day.

But, then he hears the police suspect his old mentor, Elijah, of being the London Wraith and responsible for kidnappings and murders. 

So, Thomas sets out to prove the police wrong and that Elijah is innocent.

This is gothic crime fiction at its very best, it reminds me of Poe’s writing and that sense of dread building through this tale. It has a real sense of time and place, the poverty of that time and the tension is palpable at times. It’s twisty , harrowing and utterly compelling. A must read for any fan of gothic fiction.

Thank you to Alex at Orion Books for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Letters From The Dead.

blog tour, Book reviews, Historical fiction

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn – Book Review

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’

A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll Factory, The Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.

My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.

The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.

They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

MY REVIEW 

The Smallest Man is historical fiction set during the reign of Charles I, and is the story of Nathaniel Davy, ‘The Queen’s Dwarf’.

Nat was born into a poor family and was sold into service. He became part of Queen Henrietta Maria’s royal court and soon became one of her favourites and constantly by her side. He travelled with her across Europe as civil war broke out.

Nat is the narrator of his story, his life and adventures with even a little romance. His charming personality, wit and resilience really come across, he’s such a likeable character.

There is plenty of historical fact seamlessly mixed with the fiction and the details,of the royal court and its politics is fascinating.

A heartwarming tale of one man’s strength, resilience and the power of kindness and compassion. Something we desperately need in this world today.

Beautifully written and completely engaging from start to finish. Historical fiction at its best.

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and a copy of The Smallest Man. 

blog tour, Book reviews, Historical fiction

People Of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield – Book Review

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

What would you do if you thought you had married a murderer?

He is my husband.

To honour and obey.

Until murder do us part.

London, 1888: Tormented by the death of her secret lover, Nurse Susannah Chapman rushes into marriage to a doctor. While attracted to her adoring, younger husband, she is more than aware her decision is at least partially driven by her ambition to escape a life of servitude to the labouring poor of the East End of London. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home confident in her marriage. But then everything changes.

She quickly learns she has swapped her profession for a type of captivity; that of a Victorian middle-class housewife, feeling isolated in her home as her housekeeper refuses to acknowledge her as mistress. Her husband becomes increasingly volatile and distant, he stays out all night, returning home dark with secrets.

Following the first death in Whitechapel, Susannah’s interest is piqued. Lost in boredom and self-doubt, she becomes obsessed with the string of violent murders terrorising the city. Horrifyingly, she finds herself beginning to believe the charming young man she thought she had seduced for economic security, could well be involved in the crimes.

Is it coincidence? Or is her husband the man they call Jack the Ripper?

 MY REVIEW 

Susannah’s last remaining grandparent has died, so now alone, she decides to move to London and train to be a nurse.

Here she meets Thomas, a wealthy surgeon and after a whirlwind romance they marry. But, as soon as the honeymoon is over a different side of Thomas emerges. He’s moody, violent and abusive, he begins staying out all night, returning home bloodied and secretive.

Then, the murders begin in Whitechapel…..

Susannah begins to wonder if Thomas is the notorious Jack The Ripper……..and wants to find out.

This is historical fiction at its finest. Full of descriptions of the squalid life of the poor in Victorian London, the gruesome murders and the way women were treated at that time. There’s a mystery too and with the great characters, the marvellous plot with some shocks and surprises on the way, this is a totally immersive read. If you enjoy the books of Ambrose Parry and Bridget Collins, you are going to love this. A must read.

Thank you to Gabriella at Midas PR for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of People Of Abandoned Character. This is my honest and unbiased review.

Purchase Link : https://amzn.to/2RS42f4

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Clare Whitfield is a UK-based writer living in a suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. Clare nurtures an obsession with female characters that are as much villain as hero, and enjoys lurking in the blurry landscape between perception and reality. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on her dog for emotional stability. Previously Clare has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and a mediocre weightlifter. People of Abandoned Character is her first novel. Follow Clare on Twitter (@whitfield_riley) and Instagram (@clarerileywhitfield).

Praise for People of Abandoned Character:

‘An astonishing book set in a Victorian London plagued by Jack the Ripper. Whitfield’s narrator is Susannah, an ex-nurse who rushed into a rapidly souring marriage with a wealthy surgeon and starts to believe that her husband might be Leather Apron himself. I’d be amazed if it isn’t dominating the shortlists come next year’s awards season’ M.W.Craven.

People of Abandoned Character follows the journey of Susannah who shortly after becoming happily married begins to discover the real man she has committed to, as she delves further into the dark truth, she fears what she might find out next…Where is Thomas disappearing to late into the night, and why when he returns is there yet another reported murder? Could the man she married be the serial killer they call, Jack the Ripper? This novel gives a haunting new perspective to the well-known murder mystery. A dark and twisted tale, People of Abandoned Character explores toxic relationships and taps into our continued fascination with Jack the Ripper, while asking readers what would you do if you thought your husband was a murderer?

The Inspiration behind ‘People of Abandoned Character’ in Clare’s own words: ‘The book was initially inspired by Jack the Ripper, and newspaper articles from the time, which lead me to the idea that perhaps the Ripper may have been married. With this in mind, I wanted to create a complex and strong female protagonist who was prepared to do anything to keep her head above water, and succeed.

While based in a historical setting, the story has a contemporary appeal as the language is accessible, set in the Victorian era of the 1880s when years of austerity had taken their toll on the communities of an increasingly gentrified London. The novel explores the smoke and mirrors of perceived social mobility, the role of a wealthy society and their responsibility to the poor (or not as it may be the case), toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse, gender equality and freedom to pursue personal ambition.’

blog tour, Book reviews, Historical fiction, Mental Health

Escaping The Whale by Ruth Rotkowitz – Book Review



PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Escaping the Whale – bookdescription

To everyone who knows her, 28-year-old Marcia Gold leads the perfect life. A good job as a high school guidance counselor specializing in helping pregnant teens as well as a handsome, successful boyfriend, she seems to have it all in 1980 Brooklyn, New York.

However, beneath the shiny surface lurks another reality. Frightening and debilitating panic attacks, which she keeps secret, torment her. As a child of Jewish Holocaust survivors, she knows that her family’s traumas have become her own. In addition, the Iranian hostage situation dominating the news compounds her inner terror.

A series of crises force Marcia to a breaking point. Desperate to free herself from her inner prison, she concocts a plan to be reborn as a new person. Unfortunately, her plan creates its own problems. Can she find another path out of her psychic pain, one that will lead her to true normalcy?

 MY REVIEW 

Set in the 1980’s, Marcia sees the Iran Hostage crisis unfold on TV….adding to her own tensions and anxieties. Marcia is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and struggles with her mental health as being constantly bombarded with news events at home and overseas. She is such a great character, I really felt for her.

Escaping The Whale is an emotion packed and incredibly moving tale of inherited trauma, life and finding your identity. It’s beautifully written with light touches of humour too. This would be a perfect read for a book club as there are so many parts just calling for discussion. 

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Escaping The Whale. This is my honest and unbiased review.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Ruth Rotkowitz is a second-generation child – the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Austria. This has informed much of her research and writing. She has published fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in a variety of anthologies and literary journals, and was a staff writer and member of the editorial board of the (now-defunct) Woman’s Newspaper of Princeton, winning awards for many of her feature articles. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in English and has taught English on both the college and high school levels. She currently leads book talks in the Phoenix, Arizona area, where she lives with her husband.

Audiobook, Book reviews, Historical fiction

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner – AUDIOBOOK Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. 

These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society
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MY REVIEW

The Jane Austen Society is set in the 1940’s and the village of Chawton.

It begins by introducing the characters and their varying backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common and that’s a love for the author, Jane Austen and her works.

This is a lovely, gently and slow paced tale with lots of references to Jane Austen’s books and characters. There’s a little tension between some characters and a little romance too.

I found this to be an absolutely charming novel and beautifully read by Richard Armitage, he really captures the mood and  story to life. Definitely a must read for any fan of Jane Austen. At 9 hours and 34 minutes, this is one to savour, relax and enjoy.

Thank you to Kate at Orion Publishing for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and a copy of the audiobook. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

Available from Audible.co.uk 

Book reviews, Historical fiction

When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Based on the Katyn massacre of 1940, When We Fall is a moving historical novel of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.

April – May 2020 marks 80 years since the Katyn massacre and 10th April 2020 also marks the 10th anniversary of the airline crash that killed top Polish dignitaries on their way to Russia to commemorate the atrocity.

England, 1943. Lost in fog, Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind.

In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to see him on the street one day.

Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested.

All of the victims of the Katyn massacre were men, except, remarkably, for one woman. And when I discovered that this woman, Janina Lewandowska, was a pilot, I knew that the Polish experience would become the heart of my novel… The story I tell is fiction, but it is one that I could not have begun to imagine without the remarkable life and death of Janina Lewandowska. CAROLYN KIRBY

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MY REVIEW 

When We Fall is set during WWII and is a fictional story which centres on the real Katyn massacre.

Vee is a pilot, flying planes between RAF airbases in the UK. Lost in the fog, she lands and meets Stefan, a Polish man in the RAF.

Ewa lives in Poland in a German occupied town. Her father runs a hotel for Germans only, he does this to protect his family. Ewa is a member of the Polish Resistance and passes information from SS officers to them. Her lover, Stefan was a POW and has been missing now for 3 years.

This marvellous tale tells of life during these troubled times, how Vee deals with racism and sexism as a female pilot of Armenian descent, and of Ewa, her bravery and commitment to fighting for what’s right. All linked by Stefan and the horrific massacre at Katyn. 

Beautifully written with great characters, full of an atmosphere so evocative of the time and place. A mix of love, bravery and the horrors of war. A truly stunning read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/3bwMtbY

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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CAROLYN KIRBY is the author of The Conviction of Cora Burns which was longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award.

Before being a full-time writer, Carolyn worked in social housing and as a teacher.

She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Oxfordshire.

 

carolynkirby.com @novelcarolyn 

Book reviews, Historical fiction, Romance

The Museum Of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated – a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby’s shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.

Prague, 1985. Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until, that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences.

It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.

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MY REVIEW 

Laure lives in Paris and is the curator of The Museum Of Broken Promises. People arrive to donate items, a baby shoe, a biscuit tin and more, each of which have stories behind them.

Stories of betrayals, lost loves, lies and upsets in their lives and by donating these treasures and their memorIes they find a peace, a letting go of the past. Laure has donated her own item, a train ticket.

Told in two timelines, the present and 1986, it tells of the political turmoil in Prague in the 80’s, the harshness of the communist regime and the people who lived it.

It’s also a love story with romance, fear, loss and heartbreak.

Beautifully written with a real sense of time and place. I found this to be haunting and unforgettable. A must read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Elizabeth Buchan was a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider The Lily, international bestseller, Revenge Of The Middle Aged Woman and The New Mrs Clifton. Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She reviews for The Sunday Times and Daily Mail and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot Literary prizes.

 

Book reviews, Family drama, Historical fiction

You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers – a century apart – must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.

Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.

Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.

The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.

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MY REVIEW 

You Will Be Safe Here is a tale of South Africa and parts of its troubled history. Told in two distinct timelines, the 1900’s and more recently, 2010. 

There’s Sarah, a Boer woman whose husband has left to fight the British, leaving her, her son and servants at home. The British milithen arrive, take all their possessions, set fire to the home and take them all to a concentration camp. The conditions were horrific with sickness and starvation rife among the prisoners.

Then there is Willem, in 2010, his mother and stepfather leave him at the New Dawn camp to ‘make a man’ of him.

Both tales are brutal and heartbreaking. This is beautifully written and packed with emotion and a little hope.  It’s shocking and utterly compelling and will stay with me for a long time. A stunning, haunting read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/2XpLdUE

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Maggie & Me’ is my memoir and ‘You Will Be Safe Here’ is my first novel. You can follow me on twitter @damian_barr and insta @mrdamianbarr. I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy: http://www.theliterarysalon.co.uk

‘You Will Be Safe Here’ is set in South Africa in 1901 and now. It explores legacies of abuse, redemption and the strength of the human spirit – there is always, light even in our very darkest moments. I didn’t imagine it would feel so urgent when it was published.

‘South Africa, 1901, the height of the second Boer War. Sarah van der Watt and her son are taken from their farm by force to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp where, the English promise: they will be safe.

Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old outsider Willem just wants to be left alone with his books and his dog. Worried he’s not turning out right, his ma and her boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Training Camp. Here they ‘make men out of boys’. Guaranteed.’

Inspired by real events, it uncovers a hidden colonial history and present-day darkness while exploring our capacity for cruelty and kindness. Here’s what some writers I admire are saying:

 

Book reviews, Historical fiction

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet. 

Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.

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MY REVIEW 

Set in 1580’s Warwickshire and tells the tale of Agnes.

Agnes is a bit of a unique woman, she kept a Kestrel when she was young, she uses herbs for health, keeps bees and knows things about people, just by touching their hands. She has three children. Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Her husband works in London, so he is as far away from his brutal father as he can be.

Young Hamnet tragically dies at only 11 years old in the time of plague.

Four years later his father writes a play, Hamlet.

Oh my, this is a beautifully written tale of loss, of grief, the heartbreak at the loss of a child. The language used is gentle and flows perfectly, giving a real sense of time and place, the emotion is palpable.

This really is historical fiction at its finest and is sure to be a classic in the making and Book clubs everywhere will adore it. A truly stunning read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Maggie O’Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones’ 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels – the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.

 

Book reviews, Historical fiction, Murder mystery

A Prison In The Sun by Isobel Blackthorn – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A Prison in the Sun

After millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore rents an old farmhouse in Fuerteventura, he moves in to find his muse.

Instead, he discovers a rucksack filled with cash. Who does it belong to – and should he hand it in… or keep it?

Struggling to make up his mind, Trevor unravels the harrowing true story of a little-known concentration camp that incarcerated gay men in the 1950s and 60s.
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MY REVIEW 

 

#3 in the Canary Islands mysteries series, but can also be read as a stand-alone.

This is a slow paced, beautifully written mystery, one to take your time over. It tells of historic and modern day events all cleverly woven together to give a real sense of time and place.

The mystery aspects are well plotted with plenty of twists to keep you guessing.

A tale of a man coming to terms with his sexuality, to find his place in the world while dealing with the horrors of a ‘concentration’ camp for gay men in the past, solving the mystery of a dead body on the beach and a rucksack packed with cash. Storytelling at its best.

Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

Purchase Link: http://mybook.to/prisonsun

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

 

Social Media Links – 

https://isobelblackthorn.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768657.Isobel_Blackthorn

https://twitter.com/IBlackthorn

https://www.instagram.com/isobelblackthorn/

 

Book reviews, Historical fiction

This Lovely City by Louise Hare – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The drinks are flowing. The music’s playing. But the party can’t last.

London, 1950. With the Blitz over and London still rebuilding after the war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.

Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home — and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery.

As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart. Immersive, poignant, and utterly compelling, Louise Hare’s debut examines the complexities of love and belonging, and teaches us that even in the face of anger and fear, there is always hope.

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MY REVIEW

This is historical fiction set in London soon after WW2 and is so redolent with atmosphere you can almost smell it.

Lawrie had arrived in London on the ship, Empire Windrush, he’s now a postman by day and an aspiring musician at night. He’s also in love with Evie, but they face many difficult challenges to say the least. They just want a quiet life together.

One day, Lawrie hears a woman shouting and a baby is found in a pond, regrettably they baby doesn’t survive. The police immediately suspect the Jamaican community just because the baby had dark skin…….but can the truth be found?

While this is a murder mystery, I felt it so much more as it deals with the reality of the horrific discrimination and abuse the ‘Windrush’ generation deal with on a daily basis, truly shameful.

A beautifully written, emotional tale and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Sian at HQ for the opportunity to take part in this Book Blog Tour, for the promotional material and a free copy of the the book. This is my honest and unbiased review

 

You can preorder a copy here : https://amzn.to/39AykdC

(Available from 12 March)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

 

Louise Hare is a London-based writer and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Originally from Warrington, the capital is the inspiration for much of her work, including This Lovely City, which began life after a trip into the deep level shelter below Clapham Common. 

Audiobook, Book reviews, Historical fiction, Murder mystery

This Lovely City by Louise Hare – Audiobook Review

 

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The drinks are flowing. The music’s playing. But the party can’t last.

London, 1950. With the Blitz over and London still rebuilding after the war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.

Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home — and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery.

As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart. Immersive, poignant, and utterly compelling, Louise Hare’s debut examines the complexities of love and belonging, and teaches us that even in the face of anger and fear, there is always hope.
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MY REVIEW

This is historical fiction set in London soon after WW2 and is so redolent with atmosphere you can almost smell it.

Lawrie had arrived in London on the ship, Empire Windrush, he’s now a postman by day and an aspiring musician at night. He’s also in love with Evie, but they face many difficult challenges to say the least. They just want a quiet life together.

One day, Lawrie hears a woman shouting and a baby is found in a pond, regrettably they baby doesn’t survive. The police immediately suspect the Jamaican community just because the baby had dark skin…….but can the truth be found?

While this is a murder mystery, I felt it so much more as it deals with the reality of the horrific discrimination and abuse the ‘Windrush’ generation deal with on a daily basis, truly shameful.

This is beautifully, movingly narrated by Theo Solomon and Karise Yansen,  and with the Jazz music at the beginning of chapters, they really brought this wonderful tale to life. One that will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Joe at HQ for the opportunity to take part in this Audio Blog Tour, for the promotional material and a free copy of the Audiobook. This is my honest and unbiased review.

Available from Audiobooks.co.uk

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

 

Louise Hare is a London-based writer and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Originally from Warrington, the capital is the inspiration for much of her work, including This Lovely City, which began life after a trip into the deep level shelter below Clapham Common. 

Book reviews, Historical fiction

The Foundling by Stacey Halls – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A mother’s love knows no bounds. . .

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her newborn, Clara, at London’t Foundling Hospital, young Bess Bright returns to reclaim the illegitimate daughter she has never really known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Les than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in a quiet town house, a wealthy widow barely ventures outside. When her close friend – an ambitious doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her young daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her – and will soon tear her carefully constructed world apart.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, ‘THE LOST ORPHAN’ explores families and secrets, class and power, and how the pull of motherhood cuts across them all.

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MY REVIEW 

Bess gives birth to her daughter, Clara, but as an unmarried woman from a poor background she makes the heartbreaking decision to leave her baby at the Foundling Hospital. She intends to collect her once her situation improves…..hopefully.

It takes Bess 6 years, but she has finally saved enough money to be able to collect Clara. However, when she arrives she is told the baby had been collected by its mother the day after she had been left there.

Utterly distraught, Bess can not understand who would have taken her baby and why…

Will Bess ever see her daughter again?

Well, what can I say? This is beautifully written historical fiction at its finest. It tells of the differences in social status, the huge gap between the wealthy and the poor and the challenges they face on a daily basis. It also tells of motherhood and just how far a mother will go for her child.

Both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

If you love historical fiction with an emotional heart, you’ll adore this.

Thank you to Tracy and Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook. This is my honest, unbiased review.

Thank you also to Pigeonhole for the brilliant, interactive daily staves and the ability to participate with other readers.

You can buy a copy here : https://amzn.to/3bJJU7B

Book reviews, Historical fiction

A Shadow On The Lens by Sam Hurcom – Book Review (Now available in Paperback)

I originally posted this in September 2019, but as the marvellous book is now available in paperback, I’m just reposting…..

 

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me.

He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder.

Someone had been watching us.

  1. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland – her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.

As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl – the face of Betsan Tilny.

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MY REVIEW 

Betsan Tilney has been murdered and her body burnt. Due to the local villagers superstitions, her body is being kept in an abandoned church. They feel the Death is the result of the demon, Calon Fawr.

Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer is sent to document the evidence, but he is unwell with a fever and starts to see things …including a shape over the body in one of his photographs …or is it just a flaw?

He visits Bethan’s mother and while unwell he is certain she told him, “Do not look for her with your eyes”….

Will Thomas find the killer, or is there something even darker walking in the village?

This is a creepy, gothic supernatural mystery in the vein of Poe and Lovecraft, there are even rats scratching in the ceiling….if like a historical, supernatural mystery then you’ll love this.

Thank you to Tracy and Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to originally participate in the blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook.  This is my honest, unbiased review.

Book reviews, Historical fiction

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground. 

The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family. 

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of. 

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder. 

Extravagant, intoxicating, and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class, and dangerous obsession.
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MY REVIEW 

Peggy works in the Moonrise Bookstore, that is until her Uncle arrives and tells her she is needed at home. It turns out Peggy is a member of the wealthiest families in America, the Batternbergs. It’s 1911 and Peggy is a new woman, independent and knows her own mind.

She has been told she must spend the summer with the family at the Oriental Hotel. Her father had died in debt and the Batternberg family had been paying all expenses since, but when her mother finds out she decides to sell their home, downsize and live off the proceeds….Peggy is dubious as this doesn’t sound like her mother.

At the hotel, there’s Peggy, her mother, sister Lydia and brother, Lawrence. There is also Henry, Lydia’s fiancé, plus cousin Ben.

Dealing with the stifling atmosphere, Peggy escapes and meets, artist Stefan in Dreamland on Coney Island…….but then a woman’s body is found, Stefan is suspected due to his background but she knows he’s innocent and sets out to prove it putting herself in danger at times too. 

This is just a perfect read, historical fiction at its finest, with a strong female character, a murder mystery and a little love too. It highlights the vast difference between the wealthy, the less fortunate and those from a different country or culture, not only in monetary terms but in attitudes and behaviour.  The writing is so descriptive, you can feel the sweltering heatwave and the family tensions are palpable….I love it and is a must read for anyone who enjoys engrossing historical fiction. Gloriously entertaining.

Thank you to Hannah at Endeavour Books for the opportunity to read this for free. This is my honest and unbiased review. My thanks also to Pigeonhole, for the daily staves of Dreamland…..

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/36fud4i

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Nancy is a writer and magazine editor who has worked as an editor at “Rolling Stone,” “InStyle,” and “Good Housekeeping.” 

Her new historical novel is “Dreamland,” set in 1911 New York City and telling the story of a rebellious heiress who escapes from her over protective family to experience the delights of Coney IIsland–but there are dangers too.

In December 2019 Nancy published a novella set in old New York: “The Ghost of Madison Avenue,” telling a mystery set in the private library of JP Morgan,

Nancy is the author of “The Blue,” a novel of suspense set in the art and porcelain worlds of 18th century Europe featuring a young female artist turned spy, and a trilogy of award-winning Tudor mysteries, published in 9 countries: “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” 

Nancy’s mind is usually in past centuries, but she lives with her family in the Queens borough of New York City.

Visit Nancy’s website at http://www.nancybilyeau.com, and follow her on Twitter @tudorscribe (courtesy of Goodreads)

 

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Book reviews, Historical fiction

Where The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow by Rashi Rohatgi – Book Review.

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

It’s 1905, and the Japanese victory over the Russians has shocked the British and their imperial subjects. Sixteen-year-old Leela and her younger sister, Maya, are spurred on to wear homespun to show the British that the Indians won’t be oppressed for much longer, either, but when Leela’s betrothed, Nash, asks her to circulate a petition amongst her classmates to desegregate the girls’ school in Chadrapur, she’s wary. She needs to remind Maya that the old ways are not all bad, for soon Maya will have to join her own betrothed and his family in their quiet village.

When she discovers that Maya has embarked on a forbidden romance, Leela’s response shocks her family, her town, and her country firmly into the new century.

due for publication 8 March 2020.
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MY REVIEW 

This is set in 1905, India.

Leela is 16 and is betrothed to Nash. He has just returned from 3 years of studying in Japan after being recalled due to the war between Russia and Japan.

Maya, is Leela’s younger sister and when they listen to Nash’s dreams of uniting the Hindu and Muslim population, they start to petition for the amalgamation of two girls schools. But, then a closer relationship builds between Maya and Hassan…..

This is a beautifully written insight into a turbulent time in Indian politics, with, at its heart, a tale of love and family.  Historical fiction that’s so interesting and emotion packed too. Stunning.

Thank you to Michelle Fitzgerald at FSB Associates for the opportunity to read this for free. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

Book reviews, Historical fiction

The Unforgetting by Rose Black – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A story of the trappings of fame, magic and the power of illusion in Victorian London.

Power, theatre and ghosts in a Victorian gothic historical, perfect for fans of The Silent Companions, The Night Circus and The Familiars.

When Lily Bell is sold by her father to a ‘Professor of Ghosts’ to settle a bad debt, she thinks she is about to hit the London stage as an actress. But little does she know that the professor intends her to be his very own ghost, part of an elaborate illusion for a fascinated audience.

Obsessed with perfection, the professor covers all bases to ensure his illusion is realistic – and when Lily comes across her own obituary in the paper, and then her own headstone in the cemetery, she soon realises that she is trapped, her parents think she is dead – and soon her fate is to become even darker…

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MY REVIEW 

Set in 1851 and Lily Bell believes she will be a famous actress in London, but then to settle a debt her parents sell her to Erasmus Salt. A stage magician obsessed with Lily.

Salt is planning an illusion and Lily is to be his very own ghost. But to make this believable, the world must believe Lily has died. So obituaries are written and Lily is kept hidden by Erasmus and his sister, Faye. Faye has now own demons to deal with due to events in her past. So a bond builds between them, but can these two strong women finally have lives of their own?

This is dark, gothic historical fiction at its best. A tale of obsession, control, illusion and mystery in the Victorian era. Beautifully written, chilling and haunting.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/3041a23

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Rose Black has written stories all her life. Her long-standing fascination with the Victorians and 19th century England underlies this novel. An award-winning freelance writer, she’s covered health, overseas development and education. Married, with two children, she lives partly in London and at other times by the sea. In her spare time, she enjoys wild swimming and growing food and flowers on her allotment.

For publicity enquiries please contact Francesca.pearce@orionbooks.co.uk 

Book reviews, Historical fiction, Police procedural, Thriller

Stasi Winter by David Young – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

In 1978 East Germany, nothing is at it seems. The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written, and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.

So when a woman’s murder is officially labelled ‘accidental death’, Major Karin Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma. To solve the crime, she must disregard the official version of events. But defying the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.

As the worst winter in living memory holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between truth and lies, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.

Stunningly authentic and brimming with moral ambiguity, Stasi Winter is the thrilling new novel from the award-winning author of Stasi Child.

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MY REVIEW 

This is #5 in the series featuring Karin Müller, it can be read as a stand-alone but I feel you will be missing out on an amazing series.

Set in East Germany in 1979 and Karin Müller had retired but is brought back to work when a woman’s body is found. The state want this recorded as an accidental death, but Karin is determined to find the truth.

This is historical fiction at its best, a murder mystery, police procedural and politics. Full of adventure this is an immensely gripping read, so atmospheric you’ll feel the chill of winter.

Great characters and so much tension in a clever and engrossing plot to rival Robert Ludlum et al. 

Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and a free ecopy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

David Young was born near Hull and – after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree – studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic specialising in Modern History. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism with provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and the BBC’s international newsrooms where he led news teams for the World Service radio and World TV.

David was a student on the inaugural Crime Thriller MA at City University – winning the course prize in 2014 for his debut novel Stasi Child – and now writes full-time in his garden shed. In his spare time, he’s a keen supporter of Hull City AFC.

Stasi Child is the first of three books in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series – set in 1970s communist East Germany – bought by the UK arm of Swedish publisher Bonnier by former Quercus CEO Mark Smith. It reached the top 5 bestsellers on Amazon Kindle, was number one bestseller in Amazon’s Historical Fiction chart, and has been optioned for TV by Euston Films (Minder, The Sweeney etc). Translation rights have so far been sold to France.

 

Book reviews, Historical fiction

Pax by John Harvey – Book Review

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

When artist Stephen Bloodsmith creates a series of images inspired by Rubens’ trip to London in 1629, he enters a historical world of suspicion and intrigue. But will the manipulations he portrays in art spill over into the real world? When he practises deception inside his own marriage, falling in love with his model even as the romance of his wife Robyn unravels, the corrosive parallels between Bloodsmith’s and Rubens’ lives – the discovery of intimate secrets, the pain caused by desire and jealousy, the consequences of power and conflict – become hard to live with and impossible to ignore. 

Rubens believed he could make peace between the warring powers of Europe. To succeed he must win over Charles I of England, while in Paris ‘the Cardinal’ is working to frustrate him. Will nation cheat nation as people deceive one another in their personal lives? 

At once an intimate portrait of sexual pain in two centuries and a gripping depiction of international deal-making, Pax is a rich, compelling study of desire, power, art – and the search for private and public peace.

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MY REVIEW

Set over two timelines, that of Rubens in 1629 and Stephen Bloodsmith in the present day.

Bloodsmith is an artist who is inspired by Rubens art and researches his life and a trip he made to London. 

Bloodsmith has a wife and daughter, but becomes obsessed with his model, Mae.

This is the story of desire, not just sexual desire but the desire for power. There’s art, politics and lots of intrigue. Beautifully written, almost poetic and a marvellous piece of historical fiction.

However, I do have to mention the sex in this novel, unfortunately the language used lets this marvellous read down a little…..’marks of the lust-beast’ really? But don’t let that put you off, this really is an engrossing read for anyone who loves historical fiction.

Thank you to Robert at Holland House Books for the opportunity to read this for free. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

John Harvey (born 21 December 1938 in London) is a British author of crime fiction most famous for his series of jazz-influenced Charlie Resnick novels, based in the City of Nottingham. Harvey has also published over 90 books under various names, and has worked on scripts for TV and radio. He also ran Slow Dancer Press from 1977 to 1999 publishing poetry. The first Resnick novel, Lonely Hearts, was published in 1989, and was named by The Times as one of the 100 Greatest Crime Novels of the Century. Harvey brought the series to an end in 1998 with Last Rites, though Resnick has since made peripheral appearances in Harvey’s new Frank Elder series. The protagonist Elder is a retired detective who now lives, as Harvey briefly did, in Cornwall. The first novel in this series, Flesh and Blood, won Harvey the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger in 2004, an accolade many crime fiction critics thought long overdue. In 2007 he was awarded the Diamond Dagger for a Lifetime’s Contribution to the genre. On 14th July 2009 he received an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters) from the University of Nottingham in recognition of his literary eminence and his associations with both the University and Nottingham (particularly in the Charlie Resnick novels). He is also a big Notts County fan. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

 

Book reviews, Classic Fiction, Cosy mystery, Historical fiction

Died And Gone To Devon by T.P Fielden – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB

X marks the spot for murder…

Temple Regis, 1959: Devon’s prettiest seaside resort is thrown into turmoil by the discovery of a body abandoned in the lighthouse.

It’s only weeks since another body was found in the library – and for the Riviera Express’s ace reporter-turned-sleuth Judy Dimont, there’s an added complication. Her friend Geraldine Phipps is begging her to re-investigate a mysterious death from many years before.

What’s more, Judy’s position as chief reporter is under threat when her editor takes on hot-shot journalist David Renishaw, whose work is just too good to be true.

Life is busier than ever for Devon’s most famous detective. Can Judy solve the two mysteries – and protect her position as Temple Regis’s best reporter – before the murderer strikes again.
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MY REVIEW

#4 in the Miss Dimont mystery series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone.

Set in the late 1950’s this is a murder mystery in a classic style.

Judy Dimont, wealthy, independent and a journalist with the Riviera Express newspaper.

In the seaside town of Temple Regis there has been a murder. As more bodies turn up Judy beings her investigation into murders past and present.

This has a marvellous cast of characters and the atmosphere of the post war years, all really brought to life by TP Fielden’s clever plot and wonderfully descriptive writing.

If you like a classic murder mystery in the vein of Josephine Tey or George Bellairs, you’ll love this.

Thank you to HQ for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and a free ecopy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.