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Thursday, 30 June 2011

‘Face of the Devil’ by N J Cooper

Published by Simon & Schuster,
July 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84983-286-1

Face of the Devil covers ten days.  Set mainly on the Isle of Wight where Suzie Gray is killed – just fifteen years old, and stabbed to death within a short distance of her uncle’s yacht.

With a young man with known psychological problems found at the scene of the crime DCI Trench calls on forensic psychologist Karen Taylor to talk to Olly. But all Olly will say is ‘I was keeping her from the devil’.  But if Olly did stab Suzie, where is the murder weapon? Karen is also disturbed by the attitude of Olly’s father who seems to just want his son locked up. 

Karen has her own problems, in a relationship with Will, a brain surgeon she is still attracted to the moody DCI Charlie Trench.  On the face of it Will is the better bet and everything he does, says he is the right man – so why don’t I like him, why I am looking for him to make a mistake so I can say – ha! Yes, I knew it.  Maybe it’s just me because on the face of it Will is an all round good guy.

As Christmas approaches Karen’s life is complicated by calls from her mother asking when her brother Aiden is arriving from the USA.  Aiden has agreed to go halves with Karen on the development of her old family holiday home.  As Karen seeks to find a way to reach Olly and find out who did kill Suzie she makes a break through within her own life which points her in the right direction.

This is a probing psychological book that reaches out to the reader on two levels, that of an interesting mystery and a deeply fascinating psychological insight into family relationships. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

N J Cooper has written three series. Her first series featured Willow King, a Civil Servant in London. There are seven books in the series. The titles in her second series featuring Barrister Trish McQuire are  Creeping Ivy, Fault Lines, Prey to All, Out of the Dark, Keep Me Alive, Gagged And Bound, Evil is Done, A Greater Evil, and A Poisoned Mind. Her most recent series features forensic psychologist Karen Taylor, the two earlier books in this series are No Escape and Life Blood. N J  Cooper also writes psychological thrillers under the name of Clare Leyton.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

‘What Lies Beneath’ by Sarah Rayne.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84737-335-9

Although the book starts in the present day when Ella Haywood hears alarming news whilst queuing at the supermarket, the story switches back to 1912 where we meet the Cadence family of Cadence Manor in the village of Priors Bramley, narrated by Crispian Cadence the eldest son, and a series of journals – author initially unknown.

The news that so disturbed Ella Haywood relates back to 1960 when the local council moved the residents from the village of Priors Bramley, re-housing them in the nearby village of Upper Bramley to make way for a road. Then decided to use the village for a chemical weapons experiment. On the morning that the village is to be sprayed with chemicals from the air, three children, Ella Heywood, Veronica and Clem, nine years old walk through the village for the last time, with disastrous results.  They all swear never to tell what happened that morning in Priors Bramley, confident that with the village sealed because of contamination their secret will remain a secret.

Although the seeds for the catastrophe of 1960 were sown in the early 1900’s the full horror does not actually come to light until the present day. This is a gruesome yet utterly absorbing tale, where the sins of the fathers are certainly visited on their children.  For Ella Hayward the past must stay buried, but secrets have a habit of finding their way to the surface.

The descriptive powers of the author are awesome, and the tension rises to a menacing level. Whilst there are some horrific scenes, it is a terribly sad tale.

Brilliantly crafted, Sarah Rayne is a gifted writer. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Sarah Rayne's first novel was published in 1982, since then she has published twenty books. Her psychological thrillers are
A Dark Dividing, Tower of Silence, Roots of Evil, Spider Light, The Death Chamber, Ghost Song, House of the Lost and What Lies Beneath.
 More recently she has embarked on a series of books with a ghost-theme, featuring the antique dealer, Nell West, and Oxford don, Michael Flint, who first make their appearance in Property of a Lady, which is published this year.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A Bedlam of Bones by Suzette Hill

Published by Constable, May 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84901-458-8

Hoping that he has seen the last of Rupert Turnbull following his gory encounter with him in France, see 'Bones in High Places', Reverend Francis Oughterard (FO) is keen to bury himself in his village of Molehill going about his pastoral duties.  But his sister Primrose has other ideas and soon poor old FO is back in the company of Rupert Turnbull, Rupert's cousin Lavinia Birtle-Figgins, Nicholas Ingaza, not to mention Bishop Horace Clinker, the covert tiddlywinks player.

Despite having during a moment of aberration offed his bothersome parishioner Elizabeth Fotherington in the woods,  see 'A Load of Old Bones', FO is a kindly chap given to chewing humbugs, smoking and playing the piano in times of stress, all accompanied by a few large gins.  So being dragged into shady dealings, FO is totally out of his depth, luckily he has two trusty companions to steer him right, Maurice his disdainful cat, and Bouncer, the dog whom Maurice just about tolerates.

With a blackmailer threatening to `out' Bishop Clinker, FO becomes an unwilling confident. A panic phone call and FO finds himself presented with a dead body.  Attempting to keep the writer Mrs Tubbly Pole from investigating, and pacifying Mavis Briggs how will FO get out of this sticky mess?

Marvellous characters, and with a wonderful turn of phrase. Set in the 1950's, this fifth book in the Molehill series is highly entertaining, and recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Author of five books in the series set in the 1950’s in the fictional village of Molehill, featuring Reverend Francis Oughterard, Bouncer the dog and Maurice the cat, they are:
A load of Old Bones.
Bones in the Belfry
Bone Idle
Bones in High Places,  
and this final book in the series, A Bedlam of Bones.
What's next Suzette?

Monday, 27 June 2011

‘The Herring in the Library’ by L C Tyler

Published by MacMillan (Hardback), 2010. ISBN: 978-0-230-71468-7.
Pan (Paperback) July 2011. ISBN: 978-0-330-47214-2

When writer Ethelred Tressider bumps into Rob (Shagger) Muntham outside the village Post Office, last seen considerably inebriated celebrating his degree, he expects nothing more than a quick nod, but having advised Ethelred that he is now Sir Robert Muntham of the large pile up the road called Muntham Court he invites himself into Ethelreds bijou residence - a couple of rooms across the village green.  Following this accidental meeting Robert adopts the habit of dropping in on Ethelred, but tonight Ethelred accompanied by his agent Elsie Thirkettle are to dine at Muntham Court. Elsie has mistaken ‘dine at their estate’ for ‘they live on an estate’ and has a sort of Gypsy Rose Lee meets Vivienne Westwood outfit which gave me an instant picture of Elsie.

Arriving at Muntham Court their host is surprisingly absent, but Lady Annabelle Muntham leads them to meet the other guests - a somewhat diverse crew. Colin and Fiona McIntosh who seem quite at home helping themselves to a drink, Clive Brent, a former banking colleague, the writer Felicity Hooper, whose book it transpires Elsie had turned down as a non-starter, which has subsequently made copious amounts of money - oops, and Gerald and Jane Smith.  When Robert does appear he seems in a strange mood and makes a toast to his chums, promising them an evening none of them will forget.  Shortly afterwards he is found strangled in his locked study.

This is the classic whodunit, with a good cast of suspects whose motives gradually come to light, as Ethelred investigates at the request of Annabelle Muntham. But above all it is a fun read. The story is told by Ethelred and Elsie in alternate chapters. They are marvellous well-fleshed out characters, who you so want to meet. The prose is witty and beautifully delivered.  This book is highly recommended, and whilst I await the next instalment of Ethelred and Elsie I will catch up on the earlier ones – you should do too, if you haven’t already..
Lizzie Hayes
Len Tyler has written four books featuring Ethelred Tressider and his agent Elsie Thirkettle  "The Herring Seller's Apprentice" and "Ten Little Herrings" were nominated for "Edgars" 2010 & 2011 & short listed for the "Last Laugh" Awards 2008 & 2010. "The Herring in the Library" won the "Last Laugh Award" 2011. His latest book Herring on the Nile will be published  1st July. The book launch will be held at Goldsboro books. Cecil Court, London on 5 July 2011.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A Quiet Death by Marcia Talley

Published by Severn House, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7278-8041-3

Hannah Ives returning home to Annapolis on the metro gets into conversation with a guy clutching a Garfinkel bag – Hannah muses that they went out of business twenty years ago.  The guy who introduces himself as Skip complains about the hot weather.  When the train crashes most of the passengers with Hannah in the front carriage are killed but Hannah survives with just a broken arm, and sits with Skip who is trapped and obviously injured until paramedics arrive.  In the time that they wait Skip confesses to killing someone, but Hannah is too concerned with keeping him conscious to take on board just what he is saying.

When she is discharged from hospital she finds in the sack from the hospital containing her clothes and other effects, the Garfinkel bag.  Her enquires at the hospital for someone called Skip meet with a blank.  In an effort to trace him Hannah opens his bag and finds a number of letters. The fascination of uncovering someone’s life from letters reminded me of Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert when the background to a mystery was solved from the contents of the accumulated documents held by the solicitors over a period of years.  To say that this is a fascinating mystery is an understatement, I was riveted. Couldn’t even put it down to make a sandwich.

I have long been a fan of Marcia Talley’s books and have read them all, and can say that this is the best. Mystery apart my favourite sentence in the book is ‘No scientific instrument yet invented is sensitive enough to measure how little I care about football’. – way to go girl!
Lizzie Hayes

Marcia's first book Sing it to Her Bones, was published in 1999. Since then she has published eight further books in the series  featuring breast cancer surviver Hannah Ives. Titles are: Unbreathed Memories, Occasion of Revenge, In Deaths Shadow, This Enemy Town, Through the Darkness, Dead Men Dancing, Without A Grave,  All Things Undying.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Crime in the Court

Celebrating Independent booksellers week, David Headley of Goldsboro Books  at 23-25 Cecil Court in the heart of book land London, hosted the book lovers dream - 40 authors gathered to chat with their readers, sign their books and partake of a glass or two of wine on a beautiful evening on the longest day of the year.

Seen on the left in the shop just before the rush arrived, Ayo Onatade, reviewer and CWA Judge of the annual Short Story competition, chatting with Sam Hayes, author of Someone Else’s Son, which has received rave reviews.  
I caught up here with Len Tyler, far left in this photograph. Len’s new book Herring on the Nile will be launched her at Goldsboro books on 5th July. Next to Len is Gaynor Coules, who is the Senior Author Research Co-ordinator at Authors Licensing & Collecting Society Ltd (ALCS). Next to Gaynor Peter Gutteridge. How I got in the picture who knows.

In the shop doorway is Claire McGowan who is the new Director of the CWA. Claire will be publishing her first crime novel with Headline next year. With her is Tom Harper, last year’s CWA chairman. Tom’s latest book is The Lazarus Vault. If it’s as good as The Book of Secrets, you are all in for a treat.

With more and more people pilling into the shop we soon spilled out into Cecil Court. On the left is Ruth Dudley Edwards famous for her marvelous Baroness Ida (Jack) Troutbeck series. Ruth’s latest book is Aftermath, is the story of the Omagh Bombing and the families fight for justice. With Ruth is agent Jane Conway-Gordon. 
Far left Linda Regan actor and writer. Linda’s latest book Brotherhood of Blades published by Severn House is due out next month.  Mystery Women will be organizing an event to publicise Linda’s book. With Linda is Mary Clarke, whose series featuring Georgina Gray, highway woman, has a strong fan base.

Erin Kelly, seen far left is the author of The Poison Tree which is her first novel. I understand that Erin’s second book The Sick Rose is published this month. With Erin is Yvonne Wareham, who tells me that her first romantic thriller will be published next March.

Adrian Magson has two series, last year I attended the launch on 9 Sept of Red Station featuring MI5 agent Harry Tate, and on 30th Sept Death on the Maris featuring Inspector Lucas Rocco. How’s that for prolific output. But there’s more Tracers was published in February and Deceivers will be published later this year. But yet more Death on the Rive Nord comes out in August. With Adrian is David Hewson whose latest book is The Fallen Angel his ninth featuring Nic Costa.

Elena Forbes far left is the author of Die With me and Our Lady of Pain. Her latest book is Evil in Return, just recently published.  With Elena is Laura Wilson, who has written nine books. Her latest series was set during World War 2 featuring Inspector Stratton. The third book in the trilogy A Capital Crime won the CWA Ellis Peters Award.

As you can see the party is now in full swing. Here are left to right Mary Clarke, Linda Regan, Mike Stotter who runs the Shots Crime and Thriller E-zine. And on the far right Robert Goddard, who has written so many marvelous books – where do I start. His latest is Blood Count and I am looking forward to reading it.
Kathy Ackley seen far left has for countless years run crime fiction tours from the USA to the UK. Many times including a stay at the St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery weekend in Oxford, but this year the trip included the now famous CrimeFest Conference in Bristol in May. With Kathy are her stepdaughter Robin and Robin’s husband Terry enjoying a holiday in the UK.

Michael Ridpath is known for his financial thrillers and Alex Caulder series, but is now writing a new series set in Iceland. The latest is 66° North, a review of which is on this blogsite. With Michael is Sam Hayes.
Barry Forshaw is a writer and journalist whose books include British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia and The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, along with first UK biography of Stieg Larsson, The Man Who Left Too Soon. He has written on books and films for many newspapers and magazines; he also edits Crime Time. With Barry is Literary Agent Jane Conway-Gordon.
Jake Kerridge, is a journalist and arts critic for the Telegraph. Also reviewer of crime fiction.  With Jake is Ann Magson who was featured two years running in the mystery Women magazine for her marvellous efforts on behalf of breast cancer.  

With Natasha (Centre) are Martin Fletcher and Vicki Mellor of Headline
N J Cooper, writer of the Trish Mcquire series, but more recently her series featuring Karen Taylor and DCI Charlie Trench. The latest is Face of the Devil, a review of which can be found on this site.

All books by these and many other authors are available SIGNED from Goldsboro Books
23-25 Cecil Court London WC2N 4EZ
Tel:+44 (0) 207 497 9230  Fax: +44 (0) 207 497 9230|

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

Published by Sphere, June 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-84744-221-5

Luca Terracini, is a British journalist currently living in Iraq outside the wire, and investigating a series of bank robberies – eighteen at last count, and the amount involved is millions of dollars – who is doing it, and how are they getting away with it? 

In London ex-cop Vincent Ruiz goes to the aid of a young woman in a bar, but helping her he ends up robbed, taken in by an elaborate scam.  He needs to get back something she and her boyfriend stole so he sets out to track them down.

These two completely isolated unrelated events in separate countries bring both parties into the path of foreign agents and people in high places, not all on the same side but all seeking to keep their secrets buried and to silence anyone who gets in their way.

Holly Knight has stolen something intensely personal from Ruiz but she also has something else, and even though she doesn’t know what she has, she is being hunted for it, and she will be killed as soon as they catch up with her. But who are they? These faceless covert people for whom human life is expendable.

This is top class thriller, that moves from war-torn Iraq to another war, that of the world of banking following the financial crisis. But as we are crashed into the horror of secrets, conspiracy and clandestine operations we also meet the ordinary people unwittingly caught up this maelstrom of terror.  This is one of the best books I have read this year.
Lizzie Hayes

Sunday, 12 June 2011

‘Witness’ by Cath Staincliffe

Published by Constable, 21st April 2011: ISBN: 978-1-84901-343-7

When Danny Macateer is shot on a Sunday morning in Hulme, it dramatically effect’s the lives of four people.  Four people who saw, and were inadvertently involved in something they would must certainly have preferred not to have witnessed.

First on the scene is Fiona a midwife, she heard the shot from inside her home and rushing to Danny’s aid tried her best to save his life.  Now she is haunted by the memory and the metallic smell which she can’t seem to get rid of, no matter what she does. Now plagued by panic attacks she is constantly in fear.

For single mother Cheryl, it’s too close, she recognises the car and the killer, but he also knows her.

Mike a delivery man is driving past and sees the actual shooting, he calls an ambulance, but dealing with the police he’s missed nine deliveries. His boss is on his back and when he tells his wife, she freaks out and tells him he must say nothing of what he saw or their lives will be in danger.

Homeless man Zak, is just looking the wrong way at the wrong time.  Living nowhere wandering the streets Zak is vulnerable – would he be safer telling the police what he saw?

Several people know who shot Danny Macateer but will they have the courage to speak out.  This is a heart-searing story as we follow the lives of these four people caught up in abnormal circumstances. 

Brilliantly crafted, a traumatic story in which any one of us could find ourselves involved.  No matter how good a citizen we are, do we have the courage to do the right thing and in doing so put ourselves, and those we love at risk.  Will the witnesses come forward and withstand the pressure of giving evidence?
Lizzie Hayes

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Published by Penquin Michael Joseph, 23 June 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-718-15495-0

In 1987 nine-year-old Rosie Vine is keen to get to the sweet shop. Impatient with her five-year-old sister Joanna she skips ahead, and Joanna is never seen again.

Twenty two years on five-year–old Matthew Farraday is abducted.  Psychotherapist
Frieda Klein reads of this in the newspapers and is disturbed when she sees that the  photograph shown of Matthew is the image of a description one of her patients has given to her of a child that haunts him in his dreams. Worried that there could be a connection Frieda contacts the Detective in charge of the case, but Inspector Karisson is sceptical of Frieda’s suspicions.

As Frieda struggles to make sense of her sessions with Alan she begins to suspect a link to an earlier abduction. But the link is tenuous. Dealing with her own personal situation, and set against a backdrop of the labyrinth of London Streets this is compelling reading. The tension is palpable and this is a one sitting read, impossible to put down.

With an unexpected twist this is an incredible piece of writing, I was thrilled to see that this is the start of a series.
Lizzie Hayes

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

66° North by Michael Ridpath

Published by Corvus, 12 May 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84887-400-8

In January 2009 Iceland is a troubled country, with many lives ruined following the Kreppa (financial crisis).  Many people have marched to the square to stand outside the Parliament building in Reykjavik to protest. Among then is Harpa, who has lost her job in the bank and can no longer pay her mortgage, her brother also can no longer make the payments on his farm, and her father who should be enjoying his retirement has lost all his savings.  But these and similar stories are all around as the angry Icelanders beat drums, saucepans and any kitchen utensils they can get their hands on.  Among such a mêlée Harpa meets a fisherman Bjorn, Sindri Palsson, a writer, and along with some others they vent their anger at the bankers whose greed has created this situation calling for something to be done.  But in the main the demonstration although noisy  is relatively peaceful. The government are relieved that it wasn't worse, no deaths reported, just the suicide of a banker Gabriel Orn.

Sergeant Detective Magnus Jonson of the Boston Police Department is on secondment to Reykjavik following his involvement as a witness in a police corruption scandal in Boston. Magnus is Icelandic born but has lived in the USA since he was twelve. When the National Police Commissioner of Iceland became concerned about big-city crime reaching Iceland he had requested an American Police Detective who had practical experience and spoke Icelandic to give teaching course at the National Police College on crime in the USA.  Magnus was the natural choice.

The murder in London of the Icelandic banker Oskar Gunnarsson brings Magnus back to hands-on police work. Although quite enjoying his teaching he is a detective at heart. Inspector Baldur Jakobsson head of the Violent Crimes Unit is keen to ensure that there is no Icelandic connection, as he does not want Iceland linked to terrorists, but when Magnus looks into the background of Oskar Gunnarsson he learns that he worked at the same bank as Gabriel Orn, indeed he was his boss. Magnus is uneasy with such a coincidence and starts to dig deeper, which puts him in communication with Detective Sergeant Piper of the British police.

As Magnus investigates the possible connection between the two deaths, he comes into contact with an estranged family member, and encouraged by his girlfriend Ingileif he arranges a meeting in the hope of laying to rest some of the traumas in his family's past.   But his meeting only raises more questions - which unbeknown to him reach back to events in 1934, when two young boys stumbled on a secret whilst acting out one of the Icelandic historic Saga's.

As with the first book in this series `Where the Shadows Lie' I learnt much about Iceland, its culture and in particular the historic Saga's.

The two investigations, one international and one personal run concurrently, and both are absorbing. The story is one of anger, helplessness, fear, and in some respects everyone's greed.  As more people in influential positions are murdered Magnus continues to pursue his line of investigation which is not in-line with his superiors. The `whodunit' aspect kept me enthralled to the end. And the final sentence has me leaping up and down for the next book.
Lizzie Hayes

A Grave in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope

Published by Allison & Busby 2011,
ISBN: 9780749009168

This is, I think, the fifth book in the series featuring Thea Osborne and her spaniel Hepzie, so I was a might thrown when the book opens with a first person narrative from an undertaker on his way to the Cotswolds to carry out the last wishes of his client Greta Simmonds, to bury her in a field close to her home. The undertaker, Drew Slocombe arranges alternative funerals for those wanting a green experience, ie the coffin is cardboard - willow if you can afford it. The funeral although sparsely attended goes off without a hitch and Drew drives back to his home in Somerset.

But the following day the police contact Drew as a complaint has been lodged by the council regarding the validity of a funeral in a field which they say was not owned by Greta Simmonds. They insist that Drew returns to Broad Camden to sort the matter out. Of course it's not as simple as that, and Drew's problems begin to multiply, not least the costs associated with driving back and forth between the Cotswolds and Somerset. Drew's finances are precariously balanced and a need for new tyres plus journeys at his own cost could upset that delicate balance.

When a body turns up, not that of Greta Simmonds I hasten to add, poor Drew is firmly in the frame. Luckily the person currently house sitting in Greta Simmonds house is Thea Osborne and she befriends Drew, goodness knows he needs a friend, as his life starts to spiral out of control.

The village of Broad Camden is rife with busybodies, family intrigue and mystery. Yes, I loved it. The best mysteries are those that have the reader on the edge of the chair eager to uncover the secrets that families hide.

Since reading this book I have discovered that an earlier series written by Rebecca Tope featured Drew Slocombe and that she has brought her two protagonists together. One thing is clear and that is that I must now read the earlier books as Drew's wife Karen has problems that clearly result from traumatic injury that isn't your everyday, oops, I fell and hurt myself.

This is the classic village mystery, packed with suspects, secrets and intrigue, and also pain and sadness, but that's all part of life and that's what we have here - all life, real and fascinating. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Monday, 6 June 2011

Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

Published by Orion, 13th January 2011. ISBN: 978-0-7528-9895-7

When reclusive artist Marissa Fordham is found brutally murdered, the only witness Haley her four-year-old daughter, the police call in Anne Leone, a child advocate to protect her, for Haley hasn’t spoken since she was found kneeling by her mother’s bloody body.

Anne is currently about to become the star witness in the trial of the man in the See-No-Evil murders. Anne is also the much loved wife of Vince Leone, a forty-nine-year-old, former Special Agent with the FBI’s, Chicago homicide detective.

The police are keen to interview Haley, she is their only lead, but Anne staunchly protects the fragile child, which provokes a custody situation with other interested parties. Whilst trying to gain access to Haley, investigation into the life of Marissa Fordham hits a blank wall. Just who was Marissa Fordham?  Another death kills a promising lead, but points to someone who needs to keep Marissa past life a secret.

Full of twists, Secrets to the Grave is a real page turner.  


Mark of the Lion by Suzanne Arruda

Published by Piatkus December 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7499-5331-7 

Jade Del Cameron is the heroin we all long to be.  In the 1914-18 war she drove an ambulance on the front in France. Although surviving physically untouched herself, she lost her friend David. His last request to her was for her to find his estranged half-brother and avenge his father’s death.  This quest takes Jade to Nairobi where she becomes involved in intrigue and murder.

This is a true adventure, fraught with the threat of death from wild animals, from poachers of ivory, and from men lusting after money.  Straight from ‘Girl’s Own Adventure’ - I can remember reading such stories when I was very young, but even now when I am forty years on I was totally captivated and held enthralled by Jade’s adventures.  Proving that they are for more adult readership there is lust and romance. I lapped up this story and was excited to see that on my bookshelf was the next instalment ‘Stalking Ivory’. I can’t wait.  Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

The Lily Bard Mysteries Omnibus by Charlaine Harris

Published by Gollancz November 2010. ISBN: 978-0-575-09643-1

Charlaine Harris has for me always been linked with vampires mysteries which are not for me, but just before Christmas I received to review a beautiful book, which was by Charlaine Harris but announced itself as the The Lily Bard Mysteries.  I just loved it.

Lily Bard lives in the town of Shakespeare. When looking for somewhere to live she fixed on this town purely because of its name. Lily Bard is a survivor, a survivor of a horrific event. Although from a loving family she just could not handle the knowledge that everyone where she had been brought up knew what had happened to her, and so she moves to somewhere, new and when people found out about her she moves again – but for now she is in Shakespeare.  She works as a cleaning lady and that again gives her the freedom to work the hours she wants, where she wants, and on her own. 

There are five books in this omnibus and I am glad that I read them one after the other for it has been an amazing journey with Lily.  Her journey has been a painful one. She has taken steps to never again be as vulnerable as she was. True, whatever we do we cannot always be totally safe but she has tried to stack the odds in her favour.

Whilst the mysteries are complex, intriguing and engaging, the strength of this volume of stories is in the journey of Lily Bard. Read it for yourself. Very highly recommended.


Frozen Charlotte by Priscilla Masters

Published by Severn House, January 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8006-2

‘There was nothing to mark her out. She sat quietly in the corner of the Accident and Emergency department, in the seat farthest away from the registration hatch.’ The opening two lines of Frozen Charlotte have the reader griped from that moment.  For the woman is clutching a bundle in a pink blanket that contains a new born that has been dead for several years.

Initial questioning of this quiet well-dressed woman brings forth no answers – only questions. PC Constable Gethin Roberts is relieved to hand over to Sergeant Paul Talith but he doesn’t get much further.  Eventually Detective Inspector Alex Randall takes over but even the basic question of ‘why did you bring a dead baby to the hospital, why not call the police?’ produces no explanation.

Coroner Martha Gunn also has questions, and together with Alex Randall they attempt to uncover the mystery behind the death of this child.

I have mentioned PC Gethin Roberts, Sergeant Paul Talith and Alex Randall, and there are many other characters in this mystery that will remained unmentioned in this review, but this story is rich in characterisation. All of their lives and many more are touched-on, and all of their lives equally fascinating. In Martha’s life are her twins now fifteen - Sam is pursing a career in football, while Sukey has different ideas and nothing that Martha could have even envisaged.

In book discussions the question is often asked of the readers what is the most powerful element in this book, plot, writing, or character?  I love an easy question, in this book equally all three.  If I should be asked what is your favourite type of mystery? I can say it is Frozen Charlotte.  A ‘mystery’ that grips the reader from the first to the last page. In short one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is compelling, fascinating, intriguing - a real mystery.  It moves at an incredible pace, every chapter taking the reader to a new place, more questions, and more interesting characters. I wanted to follow all their lives, so intriguing were they masterly proffered.

Although, the conclusion was eminently satisfying, there are a couple of tantalising personal situations left open, making me hot to read the next book.

To say ‘highly recommended’ sounds in adequate I think ‘must read’ is nearer the mark.
Lizzie Hayes

Cradle to Grave by Aline Templeton

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks, March 2011. ISBN: 0340976993

DI Marjorie Fleming known to her colleagues as 'Big Marge' is pleased to be back at work following her months of suspension. But although re-instated by the tribunal, she still has bridges to build particularly with her sergeant, Tam MacNee, whose malcontent is finding an outlet with the new DC Kim Kershaw who has her own problems.

Since being accused of murdering a baby in her care Lisa Stewart has been vilified where ever she goes; despite moving and changing her name it seems they' always find her. She lives in fear of being recognised, so when see meets a young man who seems to care for her, and who accepts her innocence she allows herself to hope. But the relaxing holiday at Rosscarron Cottages turns into a nightmare when a landslide forces her to take refuge at a nearby farm with Maidie Buchan, but she is not welcomed by Maidie's husband, surly Alick Buchan.
Living nearby is wealthy Gillis Crozier who is not sure of the wisdom of returning to his roots, as long suppressed memories surface. He has inadvisably agreed to a pop festival in the grounds of his house, but with the inclement weather it seems to be a doomed venture.

When a body is found, Big Marge is on the case, but her investigation is complicated by the appalling weather conditions and an unwelcome intrusion from her past.

This is a story rich in story-lines and characters - the perpetrator, the hunted and the hunters. The relationships between the police, and the suspects makes for a fascinating compelling mystery, for gradually as the story unfolds, unrelated people prove to be part of a sad and emotional story.
Cradle to Grave is one of the most gripping books I have read in a long time, with well drawn characters, this entry in this acclaimed series is highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes