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Monday 30 July 2012

‘Property of a Lady’ by Sarah Rayne

Published by Severn House,
31 March 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-84751-347-2 (HB)

When Jack and Liz Harper learn that they have inherited a house in Marston Lacy in Shropshire, Jack is all for selling it unseen, as living in Maryland USA there is little chance of their being able to inspect it, but Liz is eager to learn all about the house, and the English ancestors she never knew she had.    As a compromise Jack emails his friend Michael Flint, and asks him if he will leave Oxford and pop up to Shropshire to have a look at the place, and send him some photographs.

So, the coming weekend Michael books himself into the local pub in Marston Lacy. Meanwhile not one to let the grass grow under her feet, Liz has contacted a local antiques dealer to see if she can track down any of the house’s original furniture, and Michael now has an extra chore to look up antique dealer Nell West who lives in Marston Lacy, and has located a nineteenth century long-case clock reputed to have been the property of a lady who lived at the house.

Armed with his camera Michael visits Charect House which has stood empty for more than a century and has a sinister reputation.  While he is taking photos of various aspects of the house for Jack, Michael is conscious of a ticking clock but cannot actually locate the clock.  Later Michael meets Nell West and her young daughter Beth, who is close in age to Ellie, Jack and Liz Harper’s daughter.  It is Beth who hears the ‘Dead Man’s Knock' - has she become the catalyst to awaken the evil in Charect House? 

Utterly fascinating, the past history of Charect House is slowly revealed through some old diaries discovered during the house renovations and through another unexpected source.  But while there are still secrets hidden in Charect House how close is tragedy.

Not a book to read alone late a night, creepy and at times terrifying, Sarah Rayne weaves an intriguing tale with a chilling twist at the end. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes 
Sarah Rayne began writing in her teens, and after a Convent education, which included writing plays for the Lower Third to perform, embarked on a variety of jobs. Her first novel was published in 1982, and since then she has written more than 20 books, including eight psychological thrillers, which have met with considerable acclaim, including the nomination to the long-list for the prestigious Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year 2005 for Tower of Silence, (originally published in 2003). In 2011, she embarked on a series of books with a ghost-theme, featuring the antique dealer, Nell West, and the Oxford don, Michael Flint, who first make their appearance in Property of a Lady.

Sunday 29 July 2012

‘The Real Macaw’ by Donna Andrews

Published by St Martin's Press 
June 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-250-00864-0

It is two in the morning and Meg Langslow is feeding her four-month-old twin sons when she hears strange noises from the living room of her house.  Going downstairs to investigate, she finds her home has been turned into a makeshift animal sanctuary.  In order to save money, the mayor has reversed the town's policy of running a sanctuary with a 'no kill' policy.  Meg's eccentric grandfather, father and brother have spearheaded an action group to break into the sanctuary and rescue the animals and now need sanctuary for a large collection of domestic pets, including a rare and exceptionally foul-mouthed macaw.  Unfortunately, Parker Blair, the man who had volunteered to transport the animals out of the county to safety has not turned up.  He has a good excuse. 
Parker has been murdered.

Contrary to her usual practice, Meg tries not to get involved in the investigation because she is mindful of her duty to her babies.  However clues present themselves and she cannot ignore them.  Meg soon discovers that Parker was a womaniser with many lovers, but he was also a devoted worker for animal welfare and an amateur investigator who has uncovered evidence that the mayor's corrupt practices have brought the town to the verge of bankruptcy.  But which of these facets of Parker's character have led to his murder?

As well as looking after her babies and her five-year-old, long-term house guest, Timmy, and investigating a murder, Meg has to battle to prevent her home from being forcibly taken over by the corrupt administration, and help her neighbours pack up the county's assets as the bank who lent the mayor money takes over the civic buildings.  Then, to add to her stress, her grandfather is attacked and badly injured.  That makes it personal.

The Real Macaw has just been released in paperback.  It is the thirteenth book featuring Meg Langslow.  All the books have humorous titles featuring the name of a bird.  (I think my favourite, most quirky title is The Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos.)  In the first book in the series, Murder With Peacocks, Meg, a professional blacksmith, meets Michael, an actor and drama teacher.  The books follow their relationship, their engagement, marriage and house buying, then the bravest move of all for a fictional female sleuth, having children.

The Real Macaw is an excellent read. It has a clever plot twist that is very satisfying. Also it is warm and funny and totally engaging, filled with endearing and eccentric characters, including Meg's extensive, warm-hearted, enthusiastic and eccentric family; the long-suffering and competent Chief of Police and, last but not least, Spike the dog, alias the Small Evil One.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Donna Andrews is a winner of the Agatha, Anthony, and Barry Awards, a Romantic Times Award for best first novel, and two Lefty and two Toby Bromberg awards for funniest mystery. She spends her free time gardening at her home in Reston, Virginia.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a core contributor to Women's Weekly.  She also writes contemporary and historical crime and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  An Adult Education teacher, Carol has always maintained that writing and reading fiction is good for people and has spent much of her career facilitating Creative Writing for disabled people.

Friday 27 July 2012

‘Tigers in Red Weather’ by Liza Klaussmann

Published by Picador,
2 August 2012.  ISBN: 978-1-4472-1220-1

The book covers a period from December 1944 through to October 1969.  The story is told by five members of the same family.  Although the book is split into sections, each section being written in the first person by that family member, the time period in each section is not chronological.  Thus piecing together the story is rather like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Although murder is part of the story, it is in essence about relationships. In the opening section it is September 1945 and we meet the two cousins, Nick and Helena, in the house in Elm Street Cambridge Massachusetts, on the eve of change. Helena is off to Hollywood to be married for the second time, and Nick is to travel to be reunited with her husband Hughes who has been serving overseas. They console each other about living so far apart with the promise that they will meet up every summer at their houses on Martha’s Vineyard, and from then on most of the story takes place at Tiger House on Martha’s Vineyard.

But neither of their lives work-out as they had envisaged. Each time they meet up at Tiger House, the glamour and sophistication is much in evidence, but below the surface simmers, jealousy, infidelity and many secrets.  When one summer, violence disrupts their reunion, mistrust and suspicion arrive at Tiger House to fester unfettered among the already complex passions that have grown up over the years.

The overriding feeling is tension. In a way unlike many books the tension doesn’t build up, it’s just there, right from the beginning tension smoulders behind every conversation, at every meeting, it is almost tangible.  The ending was, gripping and unexpected.

This is an amazing debut. Complex and well plotted, I cannot wait to see where Liza Klausssmann takes us next.
Lizzie Hayes

Liza Klaussmann worked as a journalist for the New York Times for over a decade. She received a BA in Creative Writing from Barnard College, where she was awarded the Howard M. Teichman Prize for Prose. She lived in Paris for ten years and she recently completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, in London, where she lives. She is the great-great-great granddaughter of Herman Melville.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

‘Cross Bones Yard’ by Kate Rhodes

Published by Mulholland Books,
June 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-444-73875-9

Psychologist Alice Quentin is approached by DCI Don Burns of Southwark police to visit Morris Cley who is being released from prison the next day owing to a technicality.  What Burns wants to know is how much of a threat to society is Morris Cley. 

A few days later running off a difficult telephone conversation with her boyfriend Sean, who is making her feel suffocated, Alice finds a body at Crossbones Yard, now a waste ground partially cleared, which was the site of Crossbones Cemetery where over a thousand prostitutes where buried between the 1850’s and 1994.

Later DCI Don Burns contacts Alice to look at the body as he says the wounds are similar to those on the victims of the murders committed by Ray and Marie Benson and he suspects Morris Cley. Cley’s mom was close friends with Ray and Marie Benson who had killed 13 women before they were caught, tried and imprisoned. Five of their victims were never found. Then Don Burns brings in DS Alvarez, the bad-tempered detective whom Alice had met the night she found the body, a man with a permanent scowl, who feels that Alice maybe able to help.

In the midst of this Alice is dealing with her brother Will who is bi-polar and lives in a van in her drive, refusing to move into the house. Will is unpredictable alternating between docility and violent episodes.  Into this uncomfortable situation arrives her friend the actress Lola who despite being exotic and excitable seems to be able to calm Will.

Soon the letters start and then another body - someone Alice knows, so is the killer someone close to Alice?

The book is beautifully written with many atmospheric descriptions of London. Alice is an interesting character with issues, the history of which is slowly revealed to the reader as the book progresses.  This is a fast paced compelling story that has a stunning climax that left me reeling. I just didn’t see it coming.  Put this on your ‘must read’ list.
Lizzie Hayes

Kate Rhodes was born in London. She has a PhD in modern American literature and has taught English at British and American universities. She spent several years working in the southern states of America, first in Texas, then at a liberal arts college in Florida. Kate is currently writing full-time and lives in Cambridge with her husband Dave Pescod, a writer and film maker. Crossbones Yard is Kate’s first crime novel. The second novel in the Alice Quentin series, A Killing of Angels will be published in June 2013.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

‘The Silence’ by Alison Bruce

Published by Constable,
19 July 2012. 
ISBN: 978-1-84901-203-4

The killing of Joey McCarthy in a parking lot has remained an unsolved crime put down to a random an act of violence.

Four years later with the death of her mother from cancer, and within a short space of time the suicide of two friends, Charlotte Stone’s life is disintegrating so she tries to reconcile her brother Matt with her Dad.

The report of a missing housemate brings DC Gary Goodhew to the home of seven housemates, a mix of first-year students attending Anglia Ruskin University. While some of the housemates grew up together like Matt and Libby, others are strangers, with Shanie from Indiana in the USA, and Gunvald from Oslo. Interviewing each of the housemates Gary learns the identities of the two suicides which bring back deeply buried memories, and take him into the orbit of Charlotte Stone. Together they begin to question if these tragedies could be linked.  This in turn confronts them with the possibility that the suicides were orchestrated, and if so who is next?

There are multiple third person narratives, interspersed with emails from Libby to a friend called Zoe – these email narratives provide a background to the suicides and the lives of the house mates.  The exploration of these relationships is a powerful part of the story, and as Gary investigates surprising information emerges, but nothing prepared me for the ending.

Complex and well-plotted, this entry in the series is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in the series are, Cambridge Blue, The Siren, and The Calling

Alison Bruce moved to Cambridge in 1998, where the DC Goodhew series is set.  Prior to writing her crime series, Alison had studied in around Cambridge researching  for two non-fiction books, Cambridge Murders, and The Billingtons, Death in the Family.
Alison has two children, enjoys writing songs and playing poker.

Saturday 21 July 2012

‘Fear in the Sunlight’ by Nicola Upson

Narrated by Sandra Duncan.
Published by Whole Story Audio Books.  (Full and Unabridged)
ISBN: 978-1-47120-301-5
11 CD’s 12.5 Hours Playing Time.

In July 1954 following the filming of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, three bodies are found when the elaborate apartment set is dismantled.  News of the killing is brought to London by the American Detective Tom Doyle, who feels that they may be a link between these recent killings to a series of murders 18 years before.  Chief Inspector Archie Penrose recalls the earlier murders in the summer of 1936, when Josephine Tey along with friends, is in the resort of Portmeirion in Wales to celebrate her fortieth birthday, and for a meeting with Alfred Hitchcock to talk about a possible film deal for her book A Shilling for Candles. As Archie Penrose tells the American detective Doyle, the resultant film Young and Innocent, although a success bore as much likeness to Josephine’s book as did the title - Josephine had not been pleased.

The book centres on that summer gathering in 1936.  We meet the party of Hitchcock’s guests - a number of actors, including Josephine’s friend the actress Marta Fox and her partner Lydia, also the Motley sisters who have featured in previous books.  We learn that Hitchcock has some unusual plans to entertain the party, which proves to have unpleasant consequences.

The book is evenly balanced between an absorbing mystery – and the lives of the characters, as although in a short space of time three deaths occur, much of the book explores the characters lives and their relationships with each other - rather amazingly several of them come from Wales. Also, in this the fourth book we learn more of Josephine’s love life on which she has now reached a crossroads.  

Beautifully written, the reader is sharply aware of the pain Archie feels at the loss of Josephine, as this story is written two years after Josephine’s death.  I enjoyed the elements of the conversations that touched on the matters of the day, such as the relationship of the Prince of Wales with the American woman! But it is the slow peeling away of the tangled emotions of the people involved that grips the reader and makes compelling reading.

Sandra Duncan has a remarkable range of voices.  I loved particularly her Archie Penrose, she made him sound as I imagined him, reassuring, strong and interesting, which contrasted so well with Josephine’s rather clipped Scottish accent.  Her narration greatly enhanced my enjoyment.
Lizzie Hayes

Nicola Upson was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works, and the recipient of an Escalator Award from Arts Council England.
Since discovering the work of Golden Age author Josephine Tey/Gordon Daviot, she has developed a passion for the theatre and literature of the period, and an admiration for those who wrote and performed between

Monday 16 July 2012

‘Buckingham Palace Blues’ by James Craig

Published by Robinson,
2 August 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84901-585-1

Jogging through London near Buckingham Palace on his day off, Inspector John Carlyle notices a young girl maybe nine or ten- years old sitting on a bench. On his next circuit she is still there, as there is no one close to her, he approaches her, but she does not understand English, so he calls it in.

This chance encounter leads Carlyle to a child-trafficking ring that seems to be linked to SO14, the Royal Protection Unit that polices Buckingham Palace.  Carlyle had at one time been part of SO14, so in investigating this lead he comes up against former colleagues, and they don’t all have good memories of him.

His boss Superintendent Carole Simpson gives him a limited time to investigate. Seeking the identity of the young girl leads him to Ukrainian gangsters, but when further investigations uncover possible links to members of the British aristocracy he knows that he is operating on borrowed time. Carole has her own problems with her husband in prison for fraud she is conscious that she can’t afford to put a foot wrong. Indeed she is lucky to have retained both her job and position within the police force.

I have reviewed both the two earlier books in this series and this is well up to the high standard of those earlier books.  Carlyle is a great character in that he is just an ordinary guy doing a job, but just occasionally he is superb. Although, all he wants is to put in a good days work and then go home to his wife Helen and his daughter Alice, just sometimes even though he doesn’t want to, and when no one is making him do anything, he goes the extra mile.  His passion for Danish pastries is legendary.

The story has both its tragic moments and many humorous ones, which is what life is made up of, and makes the story so believable.  As with the earlier books, which if you haven’t yet read I urge you to do so, I read this in one sitting, unable to put it down. This is a real page turner. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
Lizzie Hayes

James Craig was born in Scotland, but has lived and worked in London for thirty years. He worked as a journalist for ten years and as a TV producer for five. He lives in Covent Garden with his wife and daughter.

His earlier books are London Calling and Never Apologise, Never Explain.

Friday 13 July 2012

‘The Fallen Angel’ by David Hewson

Published by Whole Story Audio Books. Narrated by Saul Reichlin
Full and Unabridged. 14 CD’s
(Approx 16.5 Hours Playing time).
ISBN: 978-1-40749-924-6

On the last weekend of August, Nic Costa is sitting on a bench on the Garibaldi Bridge in Rome with Agata Graziano, when he is attracted by a commotion and sees a pyjama clad girl with blood on her sitting next to a body on the ground, saying in English ‘Daddy’. The papers the next day report the tragic accident of British academic Malise Gabriel who fell to his death from a Rome apartment.

But Nic Costa senses that something is wrong, and that this is not a simple accident. The girl Mina brings to Nic’s mind a tragedy from another age that of the long dead Beatrice Cenci who had been executed by the Vatican 1599 when she had avenged the sexual tyranny of her parent.  Although on holiday he gets permission to visit the apartment of the building from which Malise Gabriel had fallen.

Nic learns that the girl Mina was something of a prodigy, but had never attended school being taught at home by both her parents. But the son Robert three years older than Mina was somewhat wayward.  After visiting the apartment with his colleague Peroni, Inspector Falcone agrees to open a formal investigation.  But the Gabriel family is less than co-operative and Nic is sure they are hiding something.

Whilst both Peroni and Falcone have been struggling with the investigation sometimes veering to, maybe it was as accident?  Further revelations and the discovery by Nic Costa of another body and all doubts are swept away. Then the investigation is stepped up.

Atmospheric and mesmerizing the reader is drawn into a present day story that has parallels with the past, but can we trust the past – how much is truth and how much is myth?   As the story unfolds the sudden surprising twists make compelling reading, as eventually tragically the truth is unveiled.

The narration by Saul Reichlin added an extra dimension to a marvellous book.
Lizzie Hayes

David Hewson was born in Yorkshire in 1953 and left school at the age of seventeen to work as a cub reporter on one of the smallest evening newspapers in the country in Scarborough. Eight years later he was a staff reporter on The Times in London, covering news, business and latterly working as arts correspondent. He then worked on the launch of the Independent and was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times for a decade before giving up journalism entirely in 2005 to focus on writing fiction.  He is the bestselling author of nineteen books published in more than twenty languages. His popular Costa contemporary crime series is now in development for a series of movies in Rome.
For more information visit his web site
Saul Reichlin   gave up a career in Law to pursue his acting dream. Since studying at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, he has gone on to play a wide variety of roles in TV, theatre and film, including featured performances in Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, Poirot and many others. Noted for his deep, measured delivery, Saul's voice is ideal for audiobook narration, where he has excelled, particularly with the works of South African thriller writer Deon Meyer and crime novelist David Hewson. Saul has twice won the prestigious CrimeFest Sounds of Crime Award: in 2008 for The Seventh Sacrament by David Hewson and in 2010 for The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. The award recognises excellence in the field of audiobook narration.

Thursday 12 July 2012

‘The Bourne Imperative’ by Eric Van Lustbader

Published by Orion,
24th May 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-1645-5

I read the earlier books by Robert Ludlum in the 1970’s and by the time he wrote The Bourne Identity I was a huge fan. But following his death, although I was aware that Eric Van Lustbader was continuing the series featuring Jason Bourne, I never felt any compunction to read them. However, when The Bourne Imperative was sent to me for review I decided to give it a go.

Jason Bourne pulls a man from drowning in a lake.  When the man surfaces he knows not who he is, or from whence he came. In short he is a total mystery. But as when rescued he is bleeding from a gunshot wound, Bourne is suspicious. 

So keen to seek her quarry is Mossad agent Rebekah, and to ensure that she finds him Rebekah goes off the grid, resulting in her agency sending someone to find her, and not in a nice way.

At Treadstone in the US, operatives, Peter Marks and Soraya Moore are still recovering from their last mission, in which both of them were injured.  In their absence Dirk Richards has been assigned to their team.  A computer expert, neither Peter or Soraya are drawn to him.  But there are far more evil men at large than Dirk Richards, as is revealed as the story unfolds. Tom Brick who runs Politics as Usual. And just how where does Maceo Encarnacion fit in?

Intrigue within intrigue is how I would describe this book. No one trusts anyone, and with good reason.  What is scary is how far the betrayal goes.  This is no bedtime story - it’s harsh, brutal and final. The real deal in spy stories.
Lizzie Hayes

Eric Van Lustbader’s was born and raised in Greenwich Village, where he developed an interest in art as well as in writing. He lived downstairs from the young Lauren Bacall and built orange-crate racers in Washington Square Park with Keith and David Carradine. He is a graduate of Columbia College, with a degree in Sociology, but his real education came much earlier at The City & Country School where, as Mr. Lustbader, is fond of saying, “I learned all the important lessons that would stay with me for life.”  His first novel, The Sunset Warrior, was published in 1975.  Since then, he has published more than twenty five best-selling novels, including The Ninja, in which he introduced Nicholas Linnear, one of modern fiction's most beloved and enduring heroes, continuing his exploits in five subsequent best-sellers. His novels have been translated into over twenty languages. In 2003, he was asked by Estate of the late Robert Ludlum to continue the series based on Jason Bourne. The Bourne Legacy, published in 2004 continues and updates the adventures of Robert Ludlum’s famous international assassin. Mr. Lustbader has gone on to write five more Bourne novels, The Bourne Betrayal, The Bourne Sanction, The Bourne Deception, The Bourne Objective, The Bourne Dominion (July, 2011). In 2008, Mr. Lustbader wrote First Daughter to wide acclaim. The novel features Jack McClure and Alli Carson, Mr. Lustbader's first continuing characters since Nicholas Linnear and Jake Maroc. The second novel in the series, Last Snow, was published in January, 2010.  The third novel in the series, Blood Trust, is published in May, 2011. Eric Van Lustbader serves on the Board of Trustees and is Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee of the City & Country School in Greenwich Village. He also tends his prized collection of Japanese maples and beech trees (which have been written up in The New York Times and Martha Stewart's Living). He is a Second-Level Reiki master. He listens to music constantly and is ever on the lookout for new bands and artists.  He lives in New York State.

Friday 6 July 2012

‘Keeping Bad Company’ by Caro Peacock

Published by Severn House,
February 2012.  ISBN: 978-1-78029-020-1

It is London 1840 and Liberty Lane Private Ivestigator is sipping champagne at a diplomatic gathering. But Liberty is not there in a purely social sense, but to carry out an assignment on behalf of Mr Disraeli.  All is going according to plan until the appearance of her brother Tom Fraternity Lane. 

Tom works for the East India Company and has returned to England unexpectedly, as he has been called to give evidence in the enquiry into the murder of a wealthy merchant’s assistant, whose throat was cut on route to Bombay carrying a consignment of jewels.   Whilst Tom disapproves of Liberty’s career as a Private Investigator and seeks either to take her back to India or marry her-off to a socially acceptable man – both actually, his discomfort in his position between the East India Company and his friend Mr Griffiths, has him confiding in her. When another murder takes place, against his better judgement Tom finds himself embroiled in Liberty’s determination to seek the truth of the situation.  There is much political intrigue and dubious dealings and in the course of her investigations Liberty finds herself crossing swords with an old and most unpleasant enemy. 

I liked Liberty enormously, also her prickly independent friend and assistant Tabby. The methods employed by a lady of her social standing to extract information I found fascinating.  Like all good mysteries no one is quite what they seem, and there is an unexpected twist at the end. 

This is the fifth in the series featuring Liberty Lane, and I will now make a point of reading the earlier books. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in the series are: A Foreign Affair, A Dangerous Affair, A Family Affair and When the Devil Drives.

Caro Peacock has another identity. As Gillian Linscott she is the author of the award winning series about the suffragette detective Nell Bray.  There are eleven books in the series.
Caro lives near the Welsh Borders

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Crime in the Court

On Tuesday 3rd July a huge crowd gathered at Goldsboro Books at
23-25 Cecil Court in the heart of book land London to celebrate Independent Booksellers Week. 
David Headley who hosted the event thanked everyone for supporting him and Goldsboro Books.
There were 50 authors present mingling among the many readers, agents and publishers.

To see the photographs visit
and click on 'News'.