Fiction

Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson – Review

God, how I loved this. It’s a gentle meander of a book in which two people in later life, who’ve never met, strike up a correspondence. Their letters weave back and forth over the months, and as time passes and they gradually reveal more and more of themselves, their relationship deepens. It’s a debut novel, which is astonishing, as I found it so accomplished. I stumbled across it as a Modern Mrs Darcy book club pick, and I’m so very glad I did. Highly recommended as a cozy, sofa read.

This review is of a purchased copy.

Crime, Thriller

Keep Her Close by M.J. Ford – Review

This is the second in the DS Jo Masters series, and this time out she’s tasked with investigating the disappearance of an Oxford student. The original investigation broadens out as other young women begin to disappear, and Jo Masters’ history means that she starts to distrust all around her.

This is a pacy police procedural that can be read as a stand-alone, although there are references to her previous outing in Hold My Hand, which I will definitely put on my To Be Read list. Fans of UK crime fiction will enjoy this I feel – a solid plot and nice pace pulls you through the story and Jo Masters is an interesting protagonist. Thoroughly enjoyable.

This review is of an advance copy provided by NetGalley and Avon Books.

Crime, Thriller

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts – Review

I read this in one sitting and was captivated. It opens with the disappearance of a five year-old girl from a remote Devon hotel during an an ice storm – a hotel at which one of the other guests is now extremely concerned about hiding her past. Hazel is the name she she is now known by, but as a child she had another name – a name which had become notorious as she and her older sister had been caught up in the killing of a toddler and collectively become known to the public as The Flower Girls.

As the story unfolds the author takes us through several twists and turns, with various protagonists taking us down blind alleys and off on tangents. As well as a tale of (potentially) two crimes, one current and one historic, it’s tale of family loyalty and disloyalty, of persistence and of walking the tightrope of moral justice and outright revenge. The story also explores the rehabilitation of those that commit the most serious of crimes at a tender age, and how society should deal with these children.

The opening gave me very strong Christie vibes, with the windswept clifftop hotel, cut off by snow and ice and only a limited cast of characters that could possibly be involved in the girl’s disappearance. But the book as a whole is much more like Barbara Vine’s works (Ruth Rendell’s pen name for her more psychological thrillers), so if you’re a fan of that genre I think you might love this. And if you do, you might also love the books by Alex Marwood which I think have a similar vibe (although I should warn you that one of them, The Wicked Girls, has a very similar theme). A cracking five stars from me – it transported me on a journey to an unexpected conclusion.

This review is of a purchased copy. The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

Non fiction

“Kill The Black One First” by Michael Fuller – Review

For anyone to rise to the rank of Chief Constable must take talent and dedication. To do so against the backdrop of racism and hatred from all parts of society that this author endured during his career is truly astonishing. Add this to a childhood spent in care, with only patchy contact with his birth parents, and a determination to join the police at the age of 16 despite many people counselling him against it, and you can’t help but be in awe of the grit that this man shows.

This is an uncomfortable read in many places, shining a light on attitudes that were truly hurtful, but his spirit, determination and empathy shine through. There are some lovely vignettes too, as he comes across people later in his career that he encountered at the start. It’s also a touching tribute to some of those working within the care system who loved and believed in him. I would have loved to see a little more from his time at the pinnacle in his career, but overall I was touched, saddened and impressed by this book. Recommended.

This review is of an advance copy from NetGalley and Bonnier Books.

Non fiction

First Man In: Leading from the Front by Ant Middleton – Review

Ant Middleton is ex British special forces and most famous for his appearances in the TV programme SAS: Who Dares Wins, where members of the public take part in a curtailed version of special forces selection. And when I say members of the public, clearly these are hugely fit people who are as hard as nails, not people like me who’d cry 200m up a mountain path and try and order an Uber.

This book is a bit of a curiosity as it’s part memoir, part thoughts on leadership. It’s also a marmite book – I think you’ll either love it or hate it. What does shine through is how the military looks after its own on the battlefield but less so on civvy street, and the author doesn’t shy away from some of the issues he faced in adapting to civilian life (one of the lessons he draws here is not to hit a police officer, which would seem eminently sensible, and yet…). A resounding four stars from me, but that may be because I’m a huge fan of the TV series and enjoyed learning about the man.

This review is of a purchased copy. 

Crime, Thriller

Bitter Edge by Rachel Lynch – Review

This is the first book I’ve read from the DI Kelly Porter series and I will confess I started to feel a little nervous as the plot strands mount up. Rachel Lynch does not shy away from dark themes – the book opens with a teenage girl taking her own life and then draws in teen drug use, a parent out for revenge, potentially unfounded accusations and family drama. There are some very fine plotting skills on display as these various strands weave their way through the book and to (for me at least) an unexpected conclusion. Of particular note is that the story is set in one of the UK’s most beautiful regions, the Lake District, which it would be tempting to portray as chocolate box scenery. Although you get a feel for the raw beauty of the area, Lynch does not ignore the significant social issues facing rural populations. Highly recommended and for me a chance to go back and read the first three in the series.

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This is a review of an advance copy  provided by NetGalley and Canelo.

Historical fiction, Thriller

The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies – Review

This book is an interesting mix of mystery and romance set in 1930s Burma, and swaps between the stories of Belle, a nightclub singer and Diana, her mother. I found it a gentle read, as Belle explores the mystery of her missing baby sister, although there are a couple of points of high tension.  It’s nicely woven together and there’s clearly a huge amount of research that’s gone into the historical background of colonialism in that region. Ultimately I’d prefer something a little more tense and pacy, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction and in particular that between-the-wars period where colonialism was in a period of decline, I think you might love it.

This is a review of an advance copy provided by NetGalley and Penguin Books.

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