Perfect Crime by Helen Fields

This book was sent to me as part of a Secret Santa bookswap at the end of last year. I am, always, willing to give a good crime novel a go and discover new authors, so was intrigued to see what was in store for me.

The setting for this novel is Edinburgh – such an atmospheric city and one that does seem to inspire some wonderful crime novels. Our detectives, DI Callanach and DCI Ava Turner, are called in to investigate the death of a man who only a week before had been talked out of committing suicide – so maybe this is not suspicious, this time he actually went through with it? Until there are a number of other deaths – clearly murders – of people who have been known to consider taking their own lives.

Alongside this, the handsome-but-troubled Callanach is dealing with his own demons – and could even find himself a suspect in a murder investigation.

I really enjoyed this novel as a good piece of crime fiction. I did work out the culprit for one of the mysteries (possibly due to my love of crime novels), but was completely in the dark for the other.

This has all the ingredients of a good modern thriller: secrets, well-crafted characters, pace and complex romance.

I have read this as a standalone novel, although it is a series and this is not the first book, but I am keen to read the others. Another set of titles for the ever-growing to-be-read pile.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Before I start my ‘review’, or humble opinion, of this book, I have a little anecdote. I was reading this book on the train and it sparked a conversation. A lady told me that her friend was the author of the book – and, in fact, she was the author Helen Moss (Adventure Island Series, among others). We had a lovely chat, with another lady also, about books, encouraging reading and a reading scheme in prisons. A brief but great chat.

So, back to ‘Murder Most Unladylike’, I am clearly not the target audience, but these books had been catching my eye for a while and I was lucky enough to receive one in a bookswap. This is the first in a series, and I will be reading more, of crime capers involving the pupils of Deepdean School for Girls. Daisy and Hazel set up a secret detective agency, but there have not been many real crimes to investigate – until Hazel stumbles across the body of Miss Bell. Well, she is convinced she did but, apparently, Miss Bell has just resigned… Daist and Hazel know that this can not be true, but how do they prove it?

This book is such good fun. It has all the magic of the classic boarding school stories, such as the Chalet School, and the classic crime ingredients of the greats, such as Agatha Christie.

Beautfully written. it is engaging for all readers; you want to know ‘whodunnit’. Although Daisy is clearly a little bit of a dominant character, Hazel has the classic crime-solving skills. Together, they complement each other – a little like Holmes and Watson.

So, if you, or a reader you know, enjoys a good crime puzzle, then pick up ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ and start a whole new set of adventures.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Crime fiction has often been my genre of choice in February. I am not sure why, but it just seems to have been the theme.

‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ has been on my tbr pile for a little while but, as it has been nominated for the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020’, I thought it was about time I picked it up.

This is a great piece of crime fiction – that all readers can enjoy, it does not need to be defined by YA.

Pip decides to tackle a cold case as part of a college project. She is convinced that Sal was not responsible for the disappearance of Andie. As Pip investigates the case, with the help of Ravi, Sal’s brother, she uncovers far more secrets and mysteries that she was expecting.

Although, I solved a small part of it as I read the book (too many crime novels and TV shows in my formative years), there was plenty I did not work out; plot twists galore.

Pip is a great lead character. A strong-minded, determined young lady – who values education and is loyal to those that matter to her. It is great to see another strong female lead in a novel who can be an inspiration, although of course I would not expect us all to go off and investigate cold cases.

I really enjoyed this book and wish it lots of luck in the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’. I, also, can not wait for the release of ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ later in the year to join Pip on her next escapade, and enjoy more of Holly Jackson’s writing.

Conviction by Denise Mina

I was given the chance to review ‘Conviction’, so I jumped at the opportunity, as I always love discovering new authors and new books. Now, judging by the endorsements from crime-writing royalty such as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, I may be a little late to this party, but as the saying goes, better late than never.

I know that you should not judge a book by its cover, but this is another where the cover does not do it justice.

‘Conviction’ is a pacy page-turner. A great tale that intertwines more than one mystery to reach a gripping conclusion. It cleverly plays on the current love and obsession that the public has with tales of true crime, as out heroine ends up involved in a tale from a true crime podcast just as the life she knows (or at least created) is falling apart. However, could this investigation she ends up starting in fact give her the closure she has needed all along?

This is a clever novel and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good crime story and a strong female character. There are twists and turns that keep the story engaging and an excellent touch of humour as the book reaches its conclusion.

So, go on, tru a new author – they might just become a new favourite.

Random Attachment by Gertrude T Kitty

I was lucky enough to win a copy of ‘Random Attachment’ by Gertrude T Kitty. And, what can I say, I am so glad I did. My copy arrived in a parcel of lovely goodies, but the loveliest touch was the inscription at the front of the book.

This is a YA crime thriller (although definitely for the older YA audience) and a real page-turner. Dark. gripping and chilling, it takes you on quite a rollercoaster ride.

Mia, a council estate girl, has a troubled background she is keen to escape. Fynn, a posh boy, has been born into a wealthy background, although not without its own troubles. They are drawn together, but in the shadows is The Wolf, stalking and kidnapping local girls – if not worse. Mia and Flynn find themselves in this dark world as Mia is keen to find the truth – or is she the target?

I am so glad that, through the great Bookstagram community, I have managed to find Gertrude T Kitty’s work. She has a real passion for sharing her stories with the world, and I hope that this little blog post will help other keen readers discover her work. Especially as her second novel, ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle’, has just hit Amazon.

If you are a fan the gritty crime thriller then ‘Random Attachment’ is a book you will enjoy and want to dive into. So, why not support an author who has a real passion for her work and a love of bringing her to readers?

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Bookstagram made me do it – this was the novel that closed 2019 for me and I am so pleased that it did.

‘The Hunting Party’ was a book that I could not put down. In fact, it was the perfect travel companion as it made a recent train journey absolutely fly.

A New Year’s Eve tradition of a getaway for a group of old friends does not quite go according to plan when one of the party ends up dead. Which, as a reader, comes as no surprise as the destination of the getaway is the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the tale unfolds, there are colourful characters, dark secrets, and twists and turns. For once, I did not hold a lot of sympathy for the victim – but maybe their character was as insecure as those around them.

I enjoyed that the narrative is told from different viewpoints – each revealing different hints, clues and secrets as the tale unfolds. It was also quite a treat that the conclusion hinted at a happy ending for two characters who may have been running from their past. (And become caught up with quite a complex group of ‘friends’).

This is a book that may lead you to question if we ever really know anyone. A great read!

The End of 2019

It may be the first day of 2020 but, with festive days having been full of excitement, I have missed a round-up of the final books of 2019.

So here we go…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book crossed over from my ‘Non-fiction November’ into December. ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is a book that I have always wanted to read but it had never quite happened.

However, this is a book that I feel many of us should read. This is not just a memoir of Maya growing up in America, but it is a study of the society and culture at the time too. It tackles some uncomfortable issues – but that is the tale of the young girl’s life, however hard it may be for us to read.

This book is an inspiration, and I am keen to read the books that follow, to learn more about this inspirational lady.

Murder at Christmas

I enjoy a festive read and I enjoy a murder mystery – so this seemed a winning combination.

A collection of short stories – classic crime capers. Some were stronger than others as tales. However, overall it was an enjoyable collection of tales for these winter nights.

The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig

Matt Haig is a writer that I admire for a number of reasons – but one of those reasons is that he can turn his hand to writing for both adults and children.

As I purchased this book, the bookseller also mentioned that he was a Matt Haig fan, but that this book may be too young for him. I tolf him that was not true, as I think anyone can enjoy these books about the Truth Pixie. They contain ideas and themes that we should all take note of.

Told in rhyme and supported with the illustrations of Chris Mould, this book is good fun for all ages, as we have all needed the friendship of the Truth Pixie from time to time.

Let It Snow

Having watched the Netflix Original Film and always enjoying some YA fiction, I have this book a read for the festive season.

A collection of three tales by three different authors, but all centred around the same town. Love and friendship are the main themes of all the tales. It is a nice read for the festive season and will inject you with the spirit of Christmas – and the desire for a white Christmas.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Maidens of Murder December pick.

This may not be a traditional setting for a Christie novel – Ancient Egypt. However, it has all the other elements of a classic Christie novel. An enjoyable read as the tale unravels – I do not want to give any spoilers.

My only slight issue as a reader was getting my around all the names of the characters – but that was probably just me.

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

A classic that I am not sure I have ever read – why not? Who knows? I saved this until December because I feel it is a really festive tale, maybe because it is now a classic pantomime.

This book was an absolute joy, as I knew it would be. There is adventure, heroes and villains, and a little bit of magic. It is just a wonderful tale – and makes you appreciate the importance of family and friends at all times.

Som there we are; quite a collection, there was one more but that will have a post of its own – as bookstagram made me do it.

Happy New Year – here is to happy 2020 reading!

The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie

Short stories are not usually my thing, although as I have got older, I have become less averse towards a collection of shorter tales. Ones from the pen of Agatha Christie are sure to be a crowd-pleaser – especially if they are spooky at this time of year.

However, for me, this was not a classic from Agatha Christie. In fact I was a little conflicted by this book. Some of the tales were excellent – especially those that had a crime element. I love a bit of supernatural mind games, especially when there is another twist for the culprit. The traditional ghostly tales were good too. Yet, I found a few of the stories did not hold my attention and when I had reached the conclusion, I was not sure I had taken in what had happened.

This was October’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ choice, which means I was again encouraged to pick up a title by Agatha Christie that I may have otherwise missed. I am glad that I have read this book because I am a fan of Christie’s work but can risk falling into the trap of only reading the famous titles. This just won’t go down as one of my favourites.

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

July’s pick for ‘Maidens of Murder’ bookclub was ‘Destination Unknown’; one of the only works by Christie not to have been brought to life on the screen – big or small.

This has more the feel of a thriller than Christie’s usual works. A standalone novel set against the early days of the Iron Curtain it is a tale of secrets, science and suspicion. There is, of course, a hint of murder, but it is not quite as central to the tale as it would be with some of Christie’s more well-known works. However, it is enjoyable to read something that is not traditional for Agatha Christie, and that really reflects the post-war era she was writing in.

However, it is a little worrying that a novel that is 65 years old is still relevant today or seems to be as we live through some turbulant times. Certainly thought-provoking.

So, thank you again ‘Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read a Christie I would never have picked up otherwise. As always, looking forward to next month’s pick.

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

This novel was ‘Maidens of Murder’ May book club choice. I am so pleased that it was because I have had a little bit of a slow reading month (I blame the day job) and this book seemed to pull me out of the slow slump.

Anyone who regularly reads the blog will know that I am a Poirot fan, so I am always happy to discover a book where he takes the lead. This one was slightly different to the usual books, as it was a full novel, but each chapter was like a self-contained story as Poirot embarked on his self-motivated challenge ‘The Labours of Hercules’.

I usually do not like short stories, but this I did enjoy. There was a level of satisfaction as Poirot solved a mystery by the end of each chapter. Of course, Poirot also finds satisfaction as he manages to solve a crime in the vain of the labours of Hercules (his namesake also).

I also find it interesting how this novel compared to the David Suchet TV adaptation. It was clever how they incorporated the tales for the TV and which tale they selected to make centre stage. Now I have read the book, I would quite like to watch the TV adaptation with a little bit of a critical eye. Although, I am pretty sure the book was better.

Have you read any novels in May which were not quite what you expected?