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Sunday 31 March 2024

Mysteries set on April Fool's Day

The shortest list I have. Maybe that's a good thing.

DEVERELL, William  2005 April Fool
FIELDS, Robert J 2002 The April Fool
HARRIS, Lee 2001 The April Fool Murder
HART. Carolyn G  2002 April Fool Dead
KEATING, H R F  1975 A Remarkable Case of Burglary
NOVAKOVICH, Josip 2004 April Fool's Day   

Saturday 30 March 2024

‘The Sleeping Beauties’ by Lucy Ashe

Published by Magpie,
15 February 2024.
978-0-86154-824-8 (HB)

More often than not, crime in fiction equates to murder, so it’s a refreshing change when there’s no blood and violence. There’s death here, and not by natural causes, but that’s not the crime. Lucy Ashe has chosen to explore something more subtle, with a lacing of man’s inhumanity to man – or more accurately in this case, women to woman. 

The exploration happens against a background Ashe knows well: the world of ballet. But this world is not the one she herself was part of for a number of years, but a pre- and post-war one, when dance giants Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann were making their name, and the Royal Ballet was still Sadlers Wells. Ashe has researched her subject meticulously, and a vivid picture of scruffy, crowded dressing rooms, lavish costumes and a punishing and often painful practice regime springs off the page in lifelike detail.

One of the two main characters is part of that company: Briar Woods, supporting artiste and member of the corps de ballet. She encounters the other protagonist, Rosamund Caradon, on a train. Rosamund is returning the last few evacuees she has housed through the war to their London homes, and Briar is rejoining the Sadlers Wells company after a brief visit to her family home in Devon, close to Rosamund’s. Briar takes a close interest in Jasmine, Rosamund’s eight-year-old daughter – and Rosamund starts to wonder if their meeting was entirely accidental. All three, and the many supporting characters too, are created in almost as much detail as the ballet setting, and drew me in to inhabit their worlds alongside them.

What follows is a sad and complex tale of passion and rejection, obsession and coercion, and also of guilt and friendship. Attitudes were quite different all those decades ago; young women were expected to adhere to certain codes of behaviour, and their life choices were far more limited and constrained by convention than in our enlightened times. But Briar wants to follow her own path and is prepared to resort to extreme measures to achieve it. What transpires as a result carries a few surprises in its wake, and the reader is left with a sense of balance regained and lessons learned.

I was left wondering whether crime fiction is the right designation for a story of such huge emotional depth, and so rich with a slice of history not often explored. Regardless of the genre label it merits, it’s a page-turner. You’ll want to follow Briar’s story to the sometimes-bitter end.  
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lucy Ashe trained at the Royal Ballet School before moving to Oxford University to study English Literature. She is an author and her first novel, a historical fiction thriller entitled Clara & Olivia was published in 2023. She also teaches English and Drama at Harrow School. She enjoys reviewing all theatre with particular interest in dance.


Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

‘Thus Was Adonis Murdered’ by Sarah Caudwell

Published by HarperCollins,
19 March 1981.
ISBN: 978-0-00231854-9 (HB)

Following an Arduous and unhappy tussle with the Inland Revenue, as to the amount she owes in taxes, Barrister Julia Larwood decides to take a holiday in Venice, because as her friend Selena reasons, if she takes a holiday she can’t afford to pay the Revenue, but if she doesn’t take a holiday she still can’t afford to pay the Revenue. So, armed with essential documents, such as a ticket, travellers’ cheques, an Italian phrase book, Ragwort’s guide to Venice, and her copy of the Finance act Julia joins an Art Lovers tour bound for Venice.

Her account of her adventures in Venice are relayed to her colleagues in No 62 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, through a series of letters. Most of which Selena reads aloud over a bottle of Nierstein partaken at the Corkscrew, a wine bar on the north side of High Holborn. And Julia is not dilatory in this, as her first letter is written from the aircraft bearing her to the sweet delights of Venice, brought down to earth by her neighbour in the next seat who introduces himself as Major Linaker and whose hand seems to have penchant for Julia’s knee. It is only in an attempt to avoid his overtures that Julia espies a younger man with a celestial profile, and Julia is lost, too faint with passion to continue.

Julia’s adventures to secure with this adonis a night of passion are slightly singed when she discovers that he is an employee of the Inland Revenue.  So, when he is found dead, with Julia’s copy of the Finance Act lying but a few feet from his body, what can we deduce?

Professor Hilary Tamar on leave from Oxford studying documents in the Public Records Office feels it necessary to proffer some assistance towards securing Julia’s release from incarceration and is met with gratitude from Julia’s colleagues in Lincoln’s Inn. Indeed, the dismay of Julia’s colleagues at No 62 New Square, namely Michael Cantrip, Desmond Ragwort and Selena Jardin at Julia’s predicament goes without saying. But for the masterly intervention of Professor Hilary Tamar, who knows what the outcome might have been.

I cannot recommend this book too highly. The writing is wonderful, and the characters are marvellous.  I loved it. -----
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Other books in the series, The Sibyl in her Grave, The Sirens Sang of Murder and The Shortest Way to Hades.

Sarah Caudwell (1939-2000) was the pseudonym of Sarah Cockburn. She studied law at St Anne's College, Oxford and, practised as a barrister for several years in Lincoln's Inn. She later specialised in international tax planning at a major London bank. She is best known for a series of four murder stories written between 1980 and 1999, centred on the lives of a group of young barristers practicing in Lincoln's Inn and narrated by a Hilary Tamar, a professor of medieval law. She died in January 2000.

Friday 29 March 2024

‘The Lantern’s Dance’ by Laurie R. King

Published by Allison & Busby,
13 February 2024.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-3024-7 (HB)

Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell are now husband and wife and are going to stay with Holmes’ son, Damian Adler, and Damian’s fiancée and his young daughter in the French countryside. Damian is a famous Surrealist artist and his relationship with his father is often strained because he resents Holmes’ neglect and abandonment of his mother when she was pregnant, despite the fact that Holmes had been unaware of Damian’s mother’s pregnancy or of Damian’s existence until a few years ago when Holmes and Russell had to rescue Damian from a murder charge.

Damian’s late mother, Irene Adler, had first met Holmes when they were both young and she won his respect by being the only person who had succeeded in outwitting him. They met again some years later and started a love affair, however she left Holmes when she discovered she was pregnant without telling him the true reason.

After Holmes and Russell cleared Damian of the murder charge they did not hear from him for some years until he again needed help, this time it was to rescue his wife and young daughter, who were in the power of a very evil man. Damian’s wife died, but they managed to save his beautiful and precociously clever daughter, Estelle. Damian was injured and his life was saved by a young female doctor who then returned to France with him and Estelle. Russell had hoped that now Damian is betrothed to the down-to-earth Scottish doctor, he would be more accepting of his father and stepmother-in-law, but when they arrive at Damian’s house, they are greeted not by the family but by a caretaker who threatens Russell with a gun.

When the servant realises their identity, he is deeply apologetic. He invites them in, and he and his wife explain that Damian has taken his family away because he is concerned for their safety. This fear stemmed from several incidents: two strangers had arrived in the village and asked questions about the family and, not long after, Damian got up in the night and surprised an intruder who had broken into his house. Damian described this person as resembling a lascar and, even though he ran away when Damian challenged him, the fact that he was armed with a machete made Damian anxious enough about his family’s safety to decide to remove them to a safer place. The advent of these sinister strangers seems to be connected with the arrival from Paris of several boxes and a trunk that are filled with random articles that had belonged to the popular and prolific artist Horace Vernet, a distant relation of Damian. These had been dispatched by the museum where the possessions had been stored for some years after Damian had visited the museum to see where Vernet had once worked.

Holmes decides to go after his son to help ensure the family’s safety and, if necessary, move them to a more secure location. Russell has sprained her ankle and needs crutches to walk around, so she stays at the house. She investigates the contents of the trunk and discovers, amongst several paintings and  other things, a magical lantern  that produces exquisite images and a journal that is written in an almost indecipherable code. Russell feels instinctively that the journal entries are an integral part of the puzzle, and she focuses her brilliant, analytical brain on decoding the journal. As she succeeds in doing so, she spends the days that Holmes is absent reading the memories of an intriguing girl whose Indian name is Lakshmi.

Even when they are apart, the skills of Holmes and Russell work well together, and between them they piece together a story that changes their own lives.’

The Lantern’s Dance is the eighteenth novel featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell. Despite the wealth of information contained in the earlier books, The Lantern’s Dance manages to be a successful stand-alone book because of the author’s skill in subtly weaving in the complex backstory. It is beautifully written, with Mary Russell’s narrative told in the First Person and the story following Holmes’ thoughts and actions is in the Third Person, which works extremely well and enhances the reader’s engagement with both of the protagonists. The characters are fascinating and the plot is complex and cleverly crafted. This is a superb book in an excellent series, which I thoroughly recommend.
Reviewer:  Carol Westron

Laurie R King is a third generation Northern Californian who has lived most of her life in the San Francisco Bay area. Her background is as mixed as any writer’s, from degrees in theology and managing a coffee store to raising children, vegetables, and the occasional building. King started writing and had her first novel published in 1993. Since A Grave Talent, she has averaged a book a year, winning prizes that range from Agatha (a nomination) to Wolfe (Nero, for A Monstrous Regiment of Women.) In 1994, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was published, featuring young Mary Russell who becomes an apprentice, then partner of Sherlock Holmes in early 20th century England. There are now 18 books in the series. King also writes the occasional stand-alone novel.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 8 further mysteries. Carol's latest book is  Death and the Dancing Snowman

Thursday 28 March 2024

Chocolate Mysteries

AARONS, Kathie 2014 Death is Like a Box of Chocolates

2015 Truffled to Death

2016 Behind Chocolate Bars
ALABASRER, Stacey 2016 Death By Chocolate Cake 
BECK, Jessica 2012 Drop Dead Chocolate
BELL, Cindy 2015 The Sweet Smell of Murder

2015 A Deadly Delicious Delivery 

2016 A Bitter Sweet Murder 

2016 A Treacherous Tasty Trail 

2016 Luscious Pastry at a Lethal Party/Pastry and Peril

2016 Trouble and Treats 

2016 Fudge, Films and Felonies

2017 Custom-Made Murder 

2017 Skydiving, Souffles and Sabotage 

2018 Christmas Chocolates and Crimes

2018 Hot Chocolate and Homicide 

2018 Chocolate Caramels and Conmen 

2018  Picnics, Pies and Lies 

2019 Devil's Food Cake and Drama

2019 Cinnamon and a Corpse

2019 Cherries, Berries and a Body 

2019 Christmas Cookies and Criminals 

2020 Grapes, Ganache and Guilt 

2020 Yule Logs and Murder

2021 Mocha, Marriage and Murder

2021 Holiday Fudge and Homicide
BENNING, Patti 2020 Chocolate Cherry and Choices

2020 White Chocolate and Worries 
BERKELEY, Anthony  1929 The Poisoned Chocolates Case
BEST Morgana 2016 Sweet Revenge

2016 The Sugar Hit 

2017 Murder Sweetly Served 

2017 Chocolate To Die For 
BLAKE, Bethany 2017 Death by Chocolate Lab
BYERS, Beth 2019 Murder By Chocolate 
CARL, JoAnna 2001 The Choccolate Cat Caper

2002 The Chocolate Bear Burglary 

2003 The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up

2004 The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle 

2005 The Chocolate Mouse Trap 

2006 The Chocolate Bridal Bash 

2007 The Chocolate Jewel Case

2008 The Chocolate Snowman Murders 

2009 The Chocolate Cupid Killings 

2010 The Chocolate Pirate Plot 

2011 The Chocolate Castle Clue

2012 The Chocolate Moose Motive 

2013 The Chocolate Book Bandit 

2002 The Chocolate Clown Corpse 

2003 The Chocolate Falcon Fraud

2004 The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha 

2019 The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans 

2021 The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole 
CARTER, Sammi 2006 Chocolate Dipped Death
CLOVER, Leena 2019 Raspberry Chocolate Murder
COLE, Lyndsey 2015 Strawburied in Chocolate (2015)
DAVIDSON, Diane Mott 1992 Dying For Chocolate
DAVIS, Krista 2015 The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss
EMRICK, K.J. 2017 Death by Chocolate Cake 
FAIRER, David 2019 Chocolate House Treason
FLUKE, Joanne 2000 Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

2000 Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
FOX, Sarah 2023 Six Sweets Under
GRAVES, Sarah 2021 Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder 

2018 Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake 

2019 Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake

2020 Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut 

2021 Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle 

2022 Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake 

2023 Death by Chocolate Marshmallow Pie 
HARRIS, Joanne 1998 Chocolate
HUNTER, Carolyn Q 2017 Killer Chocolate Pie (2017)

2018 Killer Chocolate Pecan Pie (2018)
KAPPES, Tonya 2023 Chocolate Bunny Betrayal 
KEAM, Abigail 2013 Death By Chocolate
KELLY, Diane 2015 Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli (2015)
LIN, Harper 2015 Chocolat Chaud Murder
MCKEVETT, G A  2003 Death by Chocolate
MCKINLAY, Jenn 2015 Dark Chocolate Demise
MEIER. Leslie 2012 Chocolate Covered Murder
MOORE, Addison 2021 Chocolate Chip Cookie Conundrum 
MOORECROFT, M'Lissa 2020 The Chocolate Easter Baking Challenge (2020)
PRESCOTT, Summer 2015 Chocolate Filled Murder

2015 Chocolate Fudge Murder

2016 Hot Chocolate Murder 

2016 White Chocolate Murder

2018 German Chocolate Killer 

2018 Chocolate Cherry Killer 
PRESSEY, Rose 2019 Death by Chocolate Cupcake (2019)
ROBINSON, David W 2013 The Chocolate Egg Murders
ROMERIL, Christina 2022 A Christmas Candy Killing

2023 A Nutcracker Nightmare
St. JAMES, Dorothy 2017 Asking for Truffle

2018 Playing with Bonbon Fire 

2019 In Cold Chocolate 

2020 Bonbon with the Wind
STOUT, Rex 1937 The Red Box/Case of the Red Box
SUZETTE, Kathleen 2018 Chocolate Covered Murder (as by Kate Bell)

2019 Chocolate Heart Killer 

2020 Chocolate Cake and a Murder
SWANSON. Denise 2005 Murder Of A Chocolate Covered Cherry
WEISS, Kirsten 2019 Chocolate a la Murder

‘Twenty Seven Minutes’ by Ashley Tate

Published by Headline Publishing Group,
1 February 2024.
ISBN: 978-1-0354151-2 (HB)

Twenty Seven minutes is essentially a story about loss and grief.  A beautiful young girl, Phoebe Dean, died after the vehicle she was travelling in crashed into the barrier on a high bridge that crossed a deep river. There were two other young people in the car, Phoebe’s brother, Grant, who was driving, and Becca who believed that she and Grant were going to make a life together.

These three individuals, along with two of their contemporaries, brother and sister June and Wyatt are the main characters in a book that embraces numerous others including relatives, school friends, the odd official, a barman and shopworkers. It is set in a small Canadian town, West Wilmer where everybody knows everybody else and they all have long memories.

The plot vacillates continually between the time of the accident, and the present day.  Phoebe’s mother had been too distraught to hold a wake for her daughter at the time of the accident. Now, ten years later, much to Grant’s horror she has decided to hold a memorial gathering in her home.  Once again, questions arise about what caused the crash, and why Grant waited around half an hour to summon the help that could have saved his sister’s life. The three youngsters in the car had been at a party. Had they drunk too much? Had Grant waited until his breathalyzer test would be ok? Was Becca lying to protect Grant? Could she really not remember what happened on that dark and rainy night?  Why didn’t Grant want the bridge to be demolished?

Wyatt, a disturbed young drug dealer had disappeared on the night of the accident. Much to his sister June’s amazement he reappears in time for Phoebe’s memorial. He says he knows exactly what happened on the bridge ten years ago and intends tell all at the memorial event.

This is an impressive first book. Ashley Tate excels at building her characters and describing the complicated interrelationships that exist within and between families, along with the insidious dangers inherent in small town gossip. Unfortunately, both Phoebe and Grant’s and June and Wyatt’s fathers have long since deserted their families, leaving wives and children to survive as best they can in highly dysfunctional units.  To say that nobody is happy is an understatement. The only person with a caring, albeit controlling, family is Becca who constantly worries about her broken relationship with Grant. This slow-moving tale will definitely appeal to those interested in guilt and the psychology of unhappy and damaged individuals.
Reviewer Angela Crowther.

Ashley Tate worked for over a decade as an editorial writer and editor for various publications as well as Canada's first online magazine. Writing a novel and seeing it published is really the only thing on her bucket list and she's ecstatic to be checking that off. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, two children. 

Follow Ashley on Twitter @tate_ab
Follow Ashley on Instagram @ashleytateauthor

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

Monday 25 March 2024

‘Going There’ by Donna Fletcher Crow

Published by Verity Press,
1 December 2023.
ISBN: 979-886832465-9 (PB)

Tales from the Riviera and Beyond

Donna Fletcher Crow’s latest book, Going There: Tales from the Riviera and Beyond, weaves together travel writing, historical fact and legend, and short mysteries featuring three amateur detective couples from her novels. 

The book describes the author’s journey through France and Switzerland in 2021 when many countries still had Covid restrictions in place, particularly for travellers.  Possible delays notwithstanding, Donna, heads for Europe accompanied by daughter-in-law Kelly, also a published writer.  They plan to enjoy the delights of the French Riviera and spend some time with Kelly’s daughter, Jane, a ballet student about to finish summer school in Monaco.  Each destination prompts a short story from the author. 

Crow’s love of  Europe and the creative writers and artists it has inspired over many years enriches the text with a touch as light as the lace worn by Lady Antonia Danvers from the writer’s ‘Lord Danvers Investigates’ series.  Appropriately, therefore, Charles and his wife Antonia star in the first mystery, Le Crime Passionnel (Crime of Passion), a title that is not quite as straightforward as it might suggest. 

The next stop on the journey takes the travellers to the sunshine of St Tropez and gives rise to the second story, La Mère Décrète (The Mother Decrees).  This time it is Richard and Elizabeth Spenser, the academic couple from ‘The Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense Series,’ who are confronted with a perplexing conundrum.  But will they be able to help? 

Then back to the real-life Riviera adventure, where Donna and Kelly arrive in Cap Ferrat.  The idyllic location gives rise to the second Elizabeth and Richard tale when the couple find themselves in a most unusual situation, the nature of which can be gleaned from the enigmatic title Le Garçon Fantôme (The Ghost Boy). 

Donna and Kelly leave for Monaco where they meet up with Jane.  The wealth and glamour associated with the tiny sovereign city state provides an appropriate setting for Monégasque Fracas (Mayhem in Monaco) and for the detectives from ‘The Monastery Murders’ series to make their first appearance in the book.  Felicity and Antony are travelling in France when a carefree walk leads to a nasty discovery! 

Reluctantly, our literary ladies must then bid farewell to the Riviera and journey on to Tours where a visit to a winery inspires Donna’s second Antony and Felicity short story,  Le Vieux Vigneron (the Old Winemaker)in which Antony confronts a clash between tradition and modernity.

Basel is the next stop on the 2021 itinerary.  Here the travellers visit Saint Gallen and its famous monastery, which inspires the final evocative story Flüstern der Legend (Whispers of Legend). Antony leaves his beloved Felicity to do some research only to make a discovery he had not anticipated!

Going There: Tales from the Riviera and Beyond is beautifully written and packed with charming insights about each stopping point.  The stories are captivating and thought provoking as Donna Fletcher Crow crafts a tapestry of creative writing that is joyful, inspiring and informative.

Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Donna Fletcher Crow is a former English teacher and a Life Member of the Jane Austin Society of America. She is the author of 50 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 12 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to:

You can follow her on Facebook at:

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.