The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

A totally different style of crime from Elly Griffiths, set in Brighton in 1950. Took a while to get into it as I’m so used to the Ruth Galloway series. Well worth it though.Zig Zag Girl

The body of a girl is found, cut into three. Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl invented by an old friend of his, Max Mephisto. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. When he finds the dead girl is known to him he decides to help the investigation. Another death using another magic trick convince Edgar & Max that the answer to the murders lies in their army days.

There are lots of twists & turns, slight of hand, misdirection, a bit of magic & much more.

Well worked plot keeps you interested & guessing who the murderer is. Interesting twist at the end.

I’d recommend you give it a go.

Eileen

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A Midwinter’s Tail by Sofie Kelly

A Midwinter's TailLibrarians, cats, & murder – what more could you ask for?

Part of the Magical Cats Mystery series, this is the first I’ve read but I’ll probably try others when I need a bit of gentle murder.

The sleuth is a Librarian, plus her two cats who have psychic powers!

How dare someone murder a guest at a gala event to raise money for a children’s reading project in the library?

Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson gets involved in trying to find the murderer despite not wanting to. Her love interest is the policeman on the case, so they can swap information, sort of.

Dramatic ending to look forward too.

For those who read the Jim Qwilleran books by Lilian Jackson Braun.

Meryl

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What She Saw by Mark Roberts

What she sawNot my usual sort of book. Not sure what to make of it either, I didn’t really enjoy it but I had to finish reading it.

Subject matter a bit gruesome, a child suffering massive burns in a car fire started seemingly by himself; evil eyes & mysterious markings drawn on walls. Will these help solve the crime?

Threats are made against DCI David Rosen including his wife & new baby.

Who can be behind it all? Will they catch the person?

It has an explosive ending so watch out!

Eileen

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The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe

The House of SleepIntrigued by the title, and looking for a holiday read, I picked this book up not knowing what to expect. What I got was a lot of story, written in chapters that alternate between 2 time periods not very far apart, but far enough to make a cleverly interlinking story. The location and characters are well drawn, making it easy to like some and not be so keen on others, and the underlying theme of the book (sleep – naturally) is dealt with in various interesting ways.

Half of the book is about a group of students living their chaotic lives in a large shared house. One is a narcoleptic who also has vivid dreams that she mistakes for reality, resulting by turns in funny, bizarre and tragic events. Another changes from being a sleep addict into an insomniac, driven by his passion for film.

The chapters set a dozen years after the earlier period find the same characters having moved on in their lives, but returning by coincidence or design to their student house which is now a clinic devoted to the study and treatment of sleep disorders. The conclusion of each character’s story is superbly appropriate, and again, suitably funny, tragic and poignant.

I particularly liked the way the book is presented in sections relating to the different stages of sleep and the connection from the end of some chapters to the beginning of the following ones with a broken sentence bridging the gap. One of the strongest impressions I gained from reading The House of Sleep was that of forgotten and remembered dreams and reality. A very satisfying book, and an author that I shall explore further.

Clare

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The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

ElizabethanIan Mortimer’s first book in his traveller guide series (The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England) met with well deserved rave reviews and is actually one of the biggest selling history books of all time.  I did thoroughly enjoy it and like so many thought it was superbly written, but I have to say I think Mortimer’s latest ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, in my opinion is even better.

In this book Mortimer gives you fascinating insights into how you would experience life if you really travelled back into Tudor times, covering all aspects of Elizabethan society.  Mortimer guides you through your journey in so many aspects, for example teaching you how to conduct yourself politely in an extremely confusing and fussy detailed social hierarchy.

Naturally this book will appeal to those of us who love history, but even if your experience of history, goes no further than those laboriously slow and boring school lessons, then give this book a try as it will literally bring history alive with a vibrancy that not all historians muster.   Find out what you would wear, what’s a typical day be like, what would you eat, how would you educate your children, what would religion mean to you, it goes on and on…

Mortimer cleverly paints such a vivid picture you can almost imagine the smells, noises and scenery he is describing.  So many history books of Tudor period are centred a round the royal court, and those few who were associated with the court and monarchy.  Mortimer places you in every day towns and villages, letting you experience the lives of the ordinary masses – of our own ancestors.  For me, it was a thrilling read about the history of humanity, poignant in a sense that you become fully aware of the hardships and sufferings of those before you.  The dreadful irony of people suffering famine, disease, poverty, persecution and violence, and with an average mortality rate of just 30 something years should this really be known as ‘The Golden Age’ or was it even worse before?!  To answer that, you’ll have to read the Medieval Guide too!

An extra thought…

For me this book is one of those reads that fires your imagination and makes you want to hunt for more, after reading this, I was lucky enough to visit Anne Hathaway’s cottage one weekend where I learnt similar things as I had from the book.  Did you know for example that a Tenant Farmer, was responsible for feeding his workers, and a big pot of broth for all to share might be kept on the go for 2 weeks (?!!) and it would be the height of bad manners to ‘fish around’ for a ‘good’ scoop, you scoop & go.…if your mate got a decent bit of meat and you fished out the dregs that’s just bad luck!  For something extra and as with the book something for when in the comfort of your own home, I can recommend downloading the BBC’s history extra podcast, there for example I learnt that the Tudors, in contrary to what we might think actually had a very sophisticated and sensible approach to rubbish collections and were in many ways far more ‘recyclable’ aware than we are!

Tess

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Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

beforeA whirlwind romance followed by a picture-perfect marriage, Hannah Reilly seizes her chance at happiness. However, one day her husband fails to come home. The more questions she asks, the fewer answers she finds. But are the secrets that Mark has been keeping designed to protect him or protect her? And can you ever really know what happened before you met?

Clever twists in this, I made up my own plot as I read and was completely wrong!

Unpredictable and revelation’s on Mark’s past, possibly far fetched at times, still made this a good read.

I thought it was intriguing, mysterious, felt Hannah’s anxiety from the start, when Mark didn’t appear on his flight, right through as she began to unravel disturbing facts, which tipped the balance,  of what you hoped was going to be a happy stable relationship in the end.

Marie-Louise

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Secrets of the sea house by Elisabeth Gifford

secretsRuth and Michael are renovating a dilapidated old property on the Hebridean island of Harris.  When they make a shocking discovery, buried beneath the house – the bones of a baby, whose fragile leg bones are fused together, Ruth is determined to solve the mystery of her new home.  At the same time it also takes Ruth on a journey into her own past.

The book is full of mystery, magic & legend, and the author seamlessly writes an intriguing tale, set in both the present and past.  Over a century previously the Reverend Alexander Ferguson takes up his new parish on Harris, which will change the course of his life forever.  Alexander fiercely researches the famous Selkie tales, driven by his own family legends but it is often at odds with his pastoral role within the community.   As Alexander teaches his maid Moira to read and write she begins to realise that Alexander’s studies maybe becoming an obsession and that Alexander remains completely unaware of the cruelty of the landlord’s treatment towards the Island’s inhabitants until it is too late.

As a debut novel, this is outstanding and I can’t wait to see what Gifford comes out with next.   Gifford cleverly weaves more than one story together, creating an atmospheric novel which is essentially about people’s lives and how we cope with what life deals us.  Gifford’s characters are flawed which actually does the book great credit.  Gifford takes us through a journey with the characters as they begin to recognise their flaws and what they must do to overcome them.

A brilliant read, highly recommend!

Tess

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The Ripper Secret by Jack Steel

RipperLondon 1888 and Jack the Ripper is terrorising London. Only one man knows the identity of the Whitechapel Murderer and the purpose behind the savage killings. Only one man knows how to make the slaughtering stop – Charles Warren, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. To do so would ruin Warren and so he had to bid his time as the killings mount up and try and see a way out of his nightmare.

Alan

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Entry Island by Peter May

entryWhen Detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at Montreal’s St. Hubert airfield, he does so without looking back. For Sime, the journey ahead represents an opportunity to escape the bitter blend of loneliness and regret that has come to characterise his life in the city. Travelling as part of an investigation team, Sime’s destination lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Only two kilometres wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of around 130: the wealthiest of which has just been discovered murdered.

Really enjoyed this. Loved the fact it kept you guessing and the relevance of Sime’s dreams , to the distant past. The historic events 19th Century of Highland Clearances.

Thought the two stories past and present worked really well, believable characters.

Wonderful imagery and character descriptions, very emotive and how it showed cruelty and the fates of really good people, at the hands of the English rulers.

Great story hugely atmospheric I thought.

Marie-Louise

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The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling)

The SilkwormThe second Cormoran Strike private eye novel, assisted by Robin his secretary cum assistant.

Strike is called in by the wife of a missing author Owen Quine whom she wants him to find. Quine has just completed a novel in which he has made most of the people he knows poisonous characters & exposed their secrets. Then he’s made sure they all get to read it before publication.

The characters in the story are a peculiar lot, brilliantly portrayed. So much that I ended up not liking a lot of them.

This is not for the squeamish as there are several passages describing gruesome stuff – don’t want to say what or it’ll spoil the plot for you & make me feel queasy again!

Personal stuff for both Strike & Robin affect the way they tackle the case.

There is misdirection everywhere, you think you’ve got the hang of it, then it changes. Twists and turns right to the end & plenty of snow!

Eileen

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