The Strangling on the Stage by Simon Brett

stranglingThis is another investigation by Feathering’s Jude and Carole. Ritchie Good is a leading light on the local amateur dramatics scene and is in constant demand, despite his arrogant and conceited manner. When he is found hanged  on a stage gallows the police conclude that it must have been an accident. Not convinced by this verdict, Jude and Carole set out on their own investigation.

Alan

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Secrets and Lies by Christine Keeler

Secrets and Lies by Christine KeelerAs the author says “Now Profumo is dead, I can finally reveal the truth about the most shocking scandal in British politics”. This is not a new book but does offer fascinating insights into the Swinging 60s and Christine’s memories of the affair that rocked the Establishment. She is forthright on her views about Stephen Ward, John Profumo and the other participants in the Affair of the Century.

Alan

 

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The Clown Service by Guy Adams

the clown serviceGuy Adams has more than 20 books to his name. He likes to ask himself the question “What would happen if Genre A was crossed with Genre B?” in order to inspire his slightly off the wall takes on familiar themes.

For Clown Service, the question was “What would happen if the traditional vintage spy novel was crossed with a nerve-shredding horror novel?” and the result is surprisingly successful!

“Toby Greene has been reassigned. The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green. The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy. The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and its interests from paranormal terrorism. The Threat: An old enemy has returned, and with him Operation Black Earth, a Soviet plan to create the ultimate insurgents by re-animating the dead.”

If that sounds like your cup of tea, you’re in for a wild ride!

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A hundred pieces of me by Lucy Dillon

a hundred pieces of meOooh, a new Lucy Dillon! Always a joy to spot on the shelves, this author specialises in delightful frothy romances which always feature even more delightful doggy companions.

This one has plenty of heartbreak along the way (do be sure to have a tissue handy) but you can be consoled by the adorable Buzz, a rescue greyhound who has to learn how to love. Come to think of it, so does our recently-divorced heroine.

You’ll need to share the main character’s love of scented candles, high thread-count sheets and other fripperies, or at least be able to overlook them, because she’s not a stomping about in wellies and fleece kind of woman at all.  But don’t let that put you off this magical read from a lovely storyteller.

Vicky 

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Iris by Jean Marsh

irisOn the positive side, this was a quick and easy read, and kept me turning the pages. On the other hand, it wasn’t quite as satisfying as I would have liked it to be. The first half is very gripping, following a 1950s young woman who is becoming seduced by the glamour she sees in the life of a call-girl. She finds dangerous protectors in the forms of the local ‘Brothers’ and her pimp, Patrick. A virgin, and determined to remain one, she must navigate the desires of her customers with enormous caution- until an act of violence changes everything.

Later, there is a hiatus of some 13 years before we meet Iris again- now married and running a catering business. But the marriage is in difficulties and Iris does not always tell the truth. I didn’t really understand the motivations of her character later on in the book and some of the decisions she came to baffled me. I think it was an effort to show the damage done to the young Iris still affecting the older woman, but I was left confused. It would be interesting to hear what others make of it- maybe one for a bookgroup?

Elena

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Even the dogs by Jon McGregor

even the dogsA haunting, humane and deeply powerful read from Jon McGregor. The central characters know one another because of their shared alcohol and heroin addictions and their lives in an unidentified English city.

The book’s structure (and even the nature of the narrators themselves) is free-floating, unmoored in time and showing us the same scenes from many different angles.

It’s a deeply affecting read, managing to lead the reader gently to new viewpoints and new ideas without either hectoring or preaching. I predict this will make my ‘reads of the year’ round-up.

Elena

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Little beach street bakery by Jenny Colgan

LITTLE BEACH STREET BAKERY A funny, touching and satisfying romance from Jenny Colgan. Our heroine is reeling from the failure of the graphic design company she ran with her partner Chris and their resulting bankruptcy. She moves to a tiny seaside town to recover and slowly but surely starts a while new life. An injured puffin, a love of baking and a fledgling romance with a local fisherman all feature… but then tragedy strikes and everything changes.

A delightful read with a charming and (dare I say it) sensible central character who doesn’t give up on the things she loves for a man. Hurrah.

Elena

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The Martian Andy Weir

the martianThis is a really captivating book! The central character is an astronaut trapped alone on Mars after an ill-fated manned Mars landing. This might put you off (“That sounds like sci-fi, I don’t read sci-fi”, you’re thinking). Please do give it a chance! The book started off as a self-published e-book and quickly gained such a following that the author was awarded a six-figure book contract!

Well-written and extremely convincing, the feel is that of reading a thrilling non-fiction account of a space mission. There is plenty of science and not a little humour- the main character is practical and very appealing. A quick read which will have you racing to finish it.

Elena

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Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller

ingenious painAn unsettling and unusual piece of historical fiction. Andrew Miller went on to win the Costa Best Novel Award for his sixth novel, Pure, and his early promise shows well in this poetical and beautifully written debut.

We follow the fortunes of James Dyer, born without the capacity to feel either physical pain or emotions. He is kidnapped by a man who seeks to use his unusual abilities to help sell a quack remedy for pain around touring fairs- but this will be only the first of many reversals to his fortune that he suffers. We will follow him as he becomes known for his skills as a doctor and his subsequent journey to Russia to inoculate Empress Catherine.

Later in the book, things take on a decidedly mystical air, which we are asked to take on trust. Nothing is explained or justified- magical and curious things just happen. Perhaps this reflects the nature of the times the book is set in? It is a book which lingers in the mind after closing the final chapter- mostly for the extreme beauty of the writing.

Elena

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The screaming staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming StaircaseAimed at older (and very stout-hearted) children or younger teens, this is the first in a great new series- and very enjoyable for adults too!

We find ourselves in a world where malevolent ghosts roam the streets after dark and adults, unable to see the ghosts or defend themselves, must rely on the superior senses and quick wits of children. Especially talented children join ghost-hunting agencies and join battle against these forces of darkness.

The central characters are interesting and believable: fierce Lucy, mysterious Lockwood and grumpy George. The adventures they embark upon are suitably ominous -and in parts, frankly terrifying. An excellent read!

Elena

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