This Week in Books (November 6)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Six friends trapped by one dark secret.

It was supposed to be our last weekend away as friends, before marriage and respectability beckoned. But what happened that Saturday changed everything.

In the middle of the night, someone died. The six of us promised each other we would not tell anyone about the body we buried. But now the pact has been broken. And the killing has started again …

Who knows what we did? And what price will we pay?

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last. 

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

He was framed for murder.
Now he needs a miracle. 

22 years ago Quincy Miller was sentenced to life without parole. He was accused of killing Keith Russo, a lawyer in a small Florida town. But there were no reliable witnesses and little motive. Just the fact that Russo had botched Quincy’s divorce case, that Quincy was black in a largely all-white town and that a blood-splattered torch was found in the boot of Quincy’s car. A torch he swore was planted. A torch that was conveniently destroyed in a fire just before his trial.

The lack of evidence made no difference to judge or jury. In the eyes of the law Quincy was guilty and, no matter how often he protested his innocence, his punishment was life in prison.

Finally, after 22 years, comes Quincy’s one and only chance of freedom. An innocence lawyer and minister, Cullen Post, takes on his case. Post has exonerated eight men in the last ten years. He intends to make Quincy the next.

But there were powerful and ruthless people behind Russo’s murder. They prefer that an innocent man dies in jail rather than one of them. There’s one way to guarantee that. They killed one lawyer 22 years ago, and they’ll kill another without a second thought. 

Hopefully these will restore my reading mojo because it’s been slim pickings the last few weeks.

What are you reading this week? Let me know! Happy reading! xx

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson | #20BooksOfSummer

Author : Cara Robertson
Title : The Trial of Lizzie Borden
Pages : 375
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Publication date : March 12, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August of 1892, the arrest of the couple’s daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence.

The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central, enigmatic character has endured for more than a hundred years, but the legend often outstrips the story. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper articles, previously withheld lawyer’s journals, unpublished local reports, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a definitive account of the Borden murder case and offers a window into America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties. 

| MY THOUGHTS |

Lizzie Borden. A name that went down in history but for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t know anything about her, apart from why her name is so well known and I feel that served me really well when reading this account of her trial as I had no idea of the outcome.

August, 1892. Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, are found brutally murdered at their home. With only two people at the house around the time of the murders, suspicion quickly falls onto Andrew’s youngest daughter, Lizzie. With a well to-do family and two gruesome murders in a small town, it’s easy to see why this case was such a big deal in its day and also why it still appeals to people around the world today.

It’s obvious from the start that author Cara Robertson has done her research. Using transcripts and reporter’s notes throughout, I almost felt like I was right there, especially during the trial itself. It was like being a member of the jury, getting all the information and being allowed the opportunity to decide for myself which side of the fence I would land on. There are photos of the victims for instance, plans of the layout of the house and the street it was located in and I scrutinised them all like an amateur detective, ruling theories out left, right and centre and coming to my own conclusion.

Admittedly, it wasn’t all exciting. There is a part in the middle, dealing with the trial mostly from the prosecutor’s side, that dragged a little too much for me. However, I assumed the actual jury members probably felt the same way so that seemed rather apt to me. On top of that, there was a huge amount of rolling the eyes and facepalming, particularly about the way women and their actions were described. That “hysterical” label for instance, but also how all women apparently turn into some kind of demon when on their “monthlies”.

I’ve not had the best results with non-fiction in the past but The Trial of Lizzie Borden really held my attention, apart from that dip in the middle. Based on the information at hand, the jury members reached the right conclusion but the question remains. Was Lizzie guilty or not? I’ve made up my mind.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

Book 18 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

55 by James Delargy | @JDelargyAuthor @simonschusterUK | #whoisfiftyfive #RandomThingsTours

Thrilled to bits to join the blog tour for “55” by James Delargy today! My thanks to Anne Cater for the opportunity to join and to the publisher for my fabulous review copy!

Author : James Delargy
Title : 55
Pages : 432
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Publication date : April 4, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.

He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

| MY THOUGHTS |

When I first spotted this book on Twitter, I just knew it was one I had to read. The fascinating and intriguing premise caught my eye instantly. Who is fifty-five indeed?! My expectations were high but as soon as I started reading the first page, I was already convinced James Delargy was going to live up to them. And then some.

Welcome to the sleepy town of Wilbrook, Western Australia. A town so remote, it’s almost falling off the map. A town surrounded by stunning landscapes and beautiful Mother Nature and yet, it feels oddly claustrophobic. Nothing much ever happens in Wilbrook. It’s the kind of town you leave behind in a trail of dust on your way to the bright lights of the big cities.

The small police department mostly deals with domestic disputes, noise complaints, maybe a drunken fight here and there. But all that changes when a blood-soaked Gabriel enters the station. He says he was kidnapped by a serial killer called Heath, who told him he was going to be his fifty-fifth victim. Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins quickly launches a manhunt for this Heath but to his surprise, Heath walks into the police station himself, telling the exact same story. Two suspects or two victims?

Yes, good luck trying to figure that one out. Every time I thought I had it figured out, something would happen to make me doubt myself and my opinion shifted. These characters are so immensely intriguing and one or two are also awfully unlikeable. Somehow whatever is going on draws parallels with events from the past, which at some point led me to having one of those exciting eureka moments. But for the most part, my theories kept changing throughout the story as the author kept me guessing until the end, unable to predict the outcome.

Speaking of outcomes, I normally make it a point not to mention endings but I can’t wrap this review up without it this time. It is just extremely shocking and it left me so immensely flabbergasted, I had to read it three times. Only to spend the next ten minutes gazing into the distance wondering what the hell I just read. Fa-bu-lous!

This isn’t an easy one to review. Obviously I don’t want to give anything away and all you really need to know is right there in the book description. I will say “55” is brilliantly plotted, extremely clever, delightfully atmospheric and an incredibly addictive page-turner. I found it so intensely gripping that I just couldn’t put it down and devoured it in one glorious reading session. I’m pretty sure you’ll be seeing this book again in my end-of-year wrap up. Loved it!

“55” is an incredible debut and I can’t wait to see what James Delargy comes up with next. In the meantime, I’ll be recommending “55” until I’m blue in the face.

“55” is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates his diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 

55 is his first novel, which has been sold in 19 countries so far and optioned for film by Zucker Productions in partnership with Prodigy Pictures.

This Week in Books (March 20)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Emily and Josephine have always shared everything. They’re sisters, flatmates, and best friends. It’s the two of them against the world.

When Emily has the perfect wedding, and Josephine finds the perfect man, they know things will change forever. But nothing can prepare them for what, or who, one of them is willing to give up for love.

Four people. Three couples. Two sisters. One unforgivable betrayal.

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.

He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

55 has been high on my list ever since I saw it mentioned on twitter and I can’t wait to get to it! Really excited about my week’s reading.

What are you reading this week? Let me know! Happy reading! xx

A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson #20BooksofSummer

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Author : Andrew Wilson
Title : A Different Kind of Evil
Pages : 375
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Publication date : May 31, 2018

aboutthebook

Two months after the events of A Talent for Murder, during which Agatha Christie “disappeared,” the famed mystery writer’s remarkable talent for detection has captured the attention of British Special Agent Davison.

Now, at his behest, she is traveling to the beautiful Canary Islands to investigate the strange and gruesome death of Douglas Green, an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service. As she embarks on a glamorous cruise ship to her destination, she suddenly hears a scream. Rushing over to the stern of the liner, she witnesses a woman fling herself over the side of the ship to her death.

After this shocking experience, she makes it to the Grand Hotel in a lush valley on the islands. There, she meets a diverse and fascinating cast of characters, including two men who are suspected to be involved in the murder of Douglas Green: an occultist similar to Aleister Crowley; and the secretary to a prominent scholar, who may also be a Communist spy. But Agatha soon realizes that nothing is what it seems here and she is surprised to learn that the apparent suicide of the young woman on the ocean liner is related to the murder of Douglas Green. Now she has to unmask a different kind of evil in this sinister and thrilling mystery.

mythoughts

After thoroughly enjoying the previous book, A Talent for Murder, I couldn’t wait to pick up this next one.

A Different Kind of Evil picks up quite shortly after events from the first book. Agatha Christie has caught the eye of the British Secret Intelligence Service and for her first mission, she is sent to Tenerife to help solve the murder of an agent whose body has been found mummified and drained of blood in a remote cave.

Events already kick off on board the ship that will take Agatha to Tenerife, when she witnesses a young woman jump overboard in what looks to be a tragic suicide. This is only the start though as Agatha finds herself deeply involved in the odd occult world of one of the island’s residents. Will Agatha be able to stop another murder from happening?

Being a crime fiction writer obviously doesn’t mean you have a knack at solving murders, although that is what’s expected from Agatha here. And so the whole story has that delightful Murder, She Wrote feeling to it, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just as in the previous book, Agatha comes across as an intelligent and perceptive woman. On top of trying to solve this gruesome murder, she’s also struggling to finish her latest book and doubting her abilities as a mother.

Once again, Andrew Wilson takes a few facts from Agatha Christie’s life and turns them into the most delicious murder mystery. While I had some inkling as to what was going on, I couldn’t quite put the various pieces of the puzzle together and there were a few surprises left for me to discover.

Agatha Christie makes a formidable main character and even though I feel I enjoyed the previous book just that little bit more, A Different Kind of Evil was hugely entertaining and I very much look forward to the next one in the series.

A Different Kind of Evil is available to buy!

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Book 17 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

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Our House by Louise Candlish #20BooksofSummer

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Author : Louise Candlish
Title : Our House
Pages : 448
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date : April 5, 2018

aboutthebook

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

mythoughts

Our House has been collecting dust on my kindle for months and I’m so glad I finally got the opportunity to read it.

Fiona returns home after a trip to find a bunch of strangers apparently moving into her house. Surely there’s been some sort of mistake! Where is her estranged husband? He was supposed to be at the house looking after their children. They too have disappeared. Who is this couple that claims to have bought Fiona’s dream home? What is happening?!

All will be revealed via two very different ways. Fiona’s side of the story is told through a podcast featuring victims of any crime imaginable. Her husband, Bram, is putting his story to paper and through them both, we will see a series of crimes and misdemeanours have a massive impact on these characters and Fiona will be left to wonder if she ever really knew her husband at all.

This dark and disturbing scenario is positively frightening and left me in a near state of panic, wondering if this could ever happen to me! Full of lies and intrigue, Our House had me absolutely hooked despite the relatively slow pace. This is an addictive page-turner that had me utterly engrossed, although there were a few chapters in the middle section that seemed to drag a little. I didn’t particularly like Fiona or Bram, yet I found myself sympathising with them quite often as things spiralled further and further out of control.

Now, don’t go peeking … but the ending? Whoa! With one sentence, Louise Candlish manages to turn the whole thing on its head and leave your mind blown to smithereens. Our House is compelling, suspenseful, quite different from what I expected but brilliantly written and plotted. If you love domestic suspense stories, you can’t pass this one up!

Our House is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Goodreads

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This was book 12 from my list of 20 Books of Summer.

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Spotlight on : Kill The Angel by Sandrone Dazieri @sandronedazieri @EmmaFinnigan @simonschusterUK @annecater #blogtour #spotlight #RandomThingsTours

Buongiorno and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Kill The Angel by Sandrone Dazieri, the second instalment in the Caselli and Torre series. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things tours for the invitation to join.

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Author : Sandrone Dazieri
Title : Kill The Angel
Series : Caselli & Torre #2
Pages : 480
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date : April 5, 2018 (first published in 2016)

aboutthebook

A high-speed train from Milan draws into the station in Rome, and an horrific discovery in one carriage rocks the city. Preliminary investigations are put in the hands of Deputy Police Commissioner Colomba Caselli.

The police receive a message claiming responsibility for the act and announcing more murders to come, and they duly turn their attention to a small terrorist group of Islamic extremists. But investigator Dante Torre does not believe this angle. For him, this feels like a smokescreen concealing the actions of a killer who has a far more terrible motivation to continue.

The trail leads to Berlin and Venice, where the waters of the Venetian Lagoon will turn blood red …

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

Praise for Kill the Angel:

‘A high octane thriller’ Keeper of Pages
‘Fast, furious and a killer ending’ The Booktrail
‘Do not sleep on this series’ Where The Reader Grows

abouttheauthor

Sandrone Dazieri was born in Cremona (Italy) in 1964. He graduated at San Pellegrino Terme hotel-management school and worked as a cook for years, all around Italy. After having moved to Milan he started working in a number of jobs, from seller to porter, and played a very active role in the italian anti nuclear movement.

In 1992 he got closer to publishing working as freelance journalist ad expert of underground culture and cyberpunk fiction.

In 1999 he achieved his first popular success with the thriller “Attenti al gorilla” (Watch Out For The Gorilla), the first in a best-seller series, where the main character is a sort of doppelgänger of Dazieri himself, living the nightlife in Milan with all the ensuing troubles. Dazieri’s books are renowned for the rocambolesque adventures in which Sandrone (the main character has the author’s name too) is continuously involved, in an irrefrenable but never fatalistic destiny. It is in fact Sandrone’s personality that always drives him to assist the weak and derelict, those who have lost all hope for help but for the Gorilla’s saving hand. Among a thousand contradictions, he’ll confront all sorts of dangers, in the best tradition of hardboiled thrillers, and aided by his alter ego called Socio (the rational side of Sandrone, in a split-personality condition), our hero will happily finalise and conclude many chilling and hair-raising situations.

Dazieri wrote many other noir novels, kids novels, comics and short stories.
He is also a scriptwriter for cinema and tv. His most successful serie is “Squadra Antimafia” (Antimafia Squad) now optioned by ABC.

With Italian film director Gabriele Salvatores and producer Maurizio Totti, Dazieri founded in 2004 the publishing house Colorado Noir.

From 2000 to 2004 he was also the chief editor of the crime series Gialli Mondadori (Mondadori Thrillers) and the catalogue for young readers Libri per Ragazzi Mondadori (Mondadori Books for Youth). He is currently a literary consultant to the Mondadori Publishing House.

He is vegetarian and testimonial for many nonprofit organization.

Author links : Twitter

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A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson @jessbarratt88 @simonschusterUK

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Author : Andrew Wilson
Title : A Talent for Murder
Series : Agatha Christie #1
Pages : 416
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Publication date : First published April 6, 2017

aboutthebook

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

mythoughts

I’m fairly new to the world of Agatha Christie, having just read two of her books in recent months. So I wasn’t at all aware of the events this novel is inspired by. In December 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared without a trace. Ten days later, she was found in a hotel in Harrogate but since Agatha has never talked about that period of her life, the mystery surrounding her disappearance still remains today.

Andrew Wilson has taken that premise and delivered a story that not only oozes atmosphere but is also quite dark and disturbing. Because Agatha Christie is being blackmailed do commit a murder. Writing about it is one thing, actually doing the crime is something entirely different. Will Agatha do this heinous act? Or will her wit allow her to find a way out of this most horrendous situation?

While the story is mostly told from Agatha’s point of view, we are also introduced to the detective charged with finding her and Una Crowe, a wanna-be journalist who would love nothing more than to solve this case and find a way to move on from her father’s death. With such a delightful cast of characters and fabulous settings, I quickly found myself completely immersed.

At first I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It seemed rather weird to have a fictional story centred around the great lady of crime herself. But Andrew Wilson really brought her to life, portraying her not just simply as this author of detective stories but as a remarkably intelligent woman whose priority is protecting her family. I adored the little mentions of books she’s written, especially as the “bad guy” seemingly took inspiration from one of her characters. Since I’ve not read that particular book, that bit may have gone over my head a bit but I’m sure that to those of you who have read it, it will add that little something extra. Speaking of the “bad guy”, he is quite possibly the most vile and despicable character I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.

A Talent for Murder had me hooked from the first page and I found it brilliantly absorbing. I love that the author included the facts at the end of the novel, pages I refused to read before I had finished the story and some things really surprised me. This is the first in a series, with a second instalment due in May, and I must say I can’t wait to get my hands on that one. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and I’d like to think Mrs Agatha Christie would have done so as well.

A Talent for Murder was first published in 2017. The paperback I read will be published on March 22nd.

My thanks to Jess Barratt and Simon & Schuster for my review copy.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

 

Solitaire by Jane Thynne @janethynne @SianLauraMae #blogtour #guestpost #review

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my final blog tour of the year. Today I’m closing down the tour for Solitaire by Jane Thynne and I have an interesting guest post as well as my thoughts on the book. But first, here’s what Solitaire is all about.

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Author : Jane Thynne
Title : Solitaire
Series : Clara Vine #5
Pages : 451
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date : November 17, 2017

aboutthebook

June 1940: Nightly blackouts suffocate Berlin. Then France falls and a shadow descends across Western Europe now under German occupation.

A shadow has fallen over Clara Vine’s own life, too. She is an Anglo-German woman in a country that hates Britain. Virulent anti-British propaganda is everywhere.

Then she is summoned to meet the Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels who has decided that Clara should adopt a new role – as his spy — and that she must go to Paris on a mission.

Much as she dislikes the idea, Clara realises this might be the chance to find an escape route to Britain. But Goebbels has other ideas and soon Clara is drawn into a web that threatens to destroy her. As everything she holds dear is taken as ransom, she must fight to protect her family – and to survive.

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Espionage and spies.

I’ve always adored spy stories. In many ways, the spy is the ideal novelistic protagonist. Everything that a spy needs to be – observant, logical, meticulous, thinking three steps ahead – is much the same for the novelist. Spies, like writers, need to see ordinary situations from a different perspective, to carry their secrets close, weave a convincing tale and seek out hidden perils in everyday environments.

And for me, it had to be a female spy. Espionage writing has always been male dominated, from Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands, to John Buchan, Ian Fleming and John Le Carré, but I wanted the woman’s view. I wanted to explore how a woman copes with espionage in the midst of, sometimes at the expense of, close personal relationships with lovers, friends, even children, so I created Clara Vine, an Anglo-German actress who arrives in Nazi Germany in 1933 and comes into contact with the VIPs of the Third Reich. From there she falls, almost by accident, into espionage, and by the time of Solitaire, which is set in 1940, she has been spying for Britain for seven years.

I chose the background of Nazi Germany because I’m fascinated by the way people survive in a regimented totalitarian society where everyone feels watched and normal human relationships are fraught with mistrust. Nazi Germany was the ultimate misogynist dystopia, where women were primarily valued for their breeding potential, and when I discovered the Berlin Bride School, where girls took residential courses in becoming  obedient wives, it was like a real life Handmaid’s Tale that I subsequently used in The Winter Garden.

In Solitaire, Germany and Britain are at war, so Clara’s existence is even more perilous. In classic spy story tradition she is approached by Joseph Goebbels, who is of course unaware of her work for British intelligence, and asked to act as a honey-trap. This is another major difference between male and female spies – sex appeal is undeniably a weapon in the toolkit of the female agent and Clara often uses her own attractiveness for higher ends. Her mission takes her to Lisbon, which in July 1940 was neutral, and packed with refugees fleeing from Nazi occupied Europe. It was also swarming with spies of both sides – British and Gestapo – who staked out different hotels and frequented separate bars. At one point both Graham Greene and Ian Fleming were spying in Lisbon, and as luck would have it, it’s Fleming who Clara encounters.

The Clara Vine novels do not fit neatly in the espionage genre – they’re historical and romantic and thrillers too. Yet I love spy writing because all the elements of life that most novels address – love, loyalty, betrayal, hope, sacrifice – are compressed in the universe of the spy. We all, to some extent, live double lives and present different faces to the different people in our worlds, but spies live a constant double life. They are always on stage, always acting a role, and there is always a marked gap between what they think and what they say. It’s this gap that interests me.

mythoughts

Solitaire is the fifth book in the Clara Vine series. Not having read any of the previous ones, I was slightly worried I wouldn’t be able to follow but I feel the author has done a great job filling in the background for those who are new to the series and I didn’t feel lost at all. I did however have a hard time connecting to Clara and didn’t particularly like her very much, which made me wonder if that would have been different if I’d gotten to know her better beforehand.

For those unfamiliar with the series, set in the World War II era, Clara Vine is an English/German actress who’s been living in Berlin for the past seven years. Due to her background and heritage, she never feels quite safe despite having German citizenship. Not only does Germany not look kindly upon the British but Clara is also desperately trying to hide her Jewish heritage. Especially as she often finds herself moving around in the circles of the higher Nazi party members and their wives, which gives an incredible insight into their lives.

I must admit it took me a while to get into this story. It was a bit of a slow-burner and needed a bit more oomph to really grab me. I did however thoroughly enjoy Katerina’s chapters and found them highly addictive. Katerina is a young girl who finds herself in a children’s home when her father dies, where she’s being raised by Brown Sisters. A lot of it is more brainwashing than anything else and some of it beggars belief. Katerina suffers from a leg problem and her life may be in danger and I quickly found myself rooting for her.

This story is certainly incredibly atmospheric and I immediately felt myself transported to the streets of Berlin, Paris and Lisbon. It’s clear the author has done a lot of research and I learned quite a lot about how the war affected the German population, for instance. As someone who regularly reads stories about the second World War, a lot of it is set in England so it was fascinating to see the other side for a change which isn’t something that’s often talked about but it should be noted that the average German suffered too.

Despite never warming to Clara, I enjoyed this historical setting and the various characters that make an appearance, like Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. There’s also a subtle threatening level throughout the story and I have nothing but admiration for those who put their lives on the line during the war to make sure the right side won. Jane Thynne effortlessly manages to combine fact with fiction and a healthy dose of intrigue with some romance. The ending seems to imply there’s much more to come for fans of Clara Vine so keep an eye out for that!

My thanks to Jane Thynne and Sian Devine for the invitation to join the tour and my ebook copy of the book!

Solitaire is available for purchase now!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

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What She Lost by Susan Elliot Wright @sewelliot @simonschusterUK

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Author : Susan Elliot Wright
Title : What She Lost
Pages : 400
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date : March 9, 2017

aboutthebook

Eleanor and her mother Marjorie have always had a difficult relationship and although they’ve tried, they have somehow just failed to connect.

Now Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, and as her memory fades, her grip on what she has kept hidden begins to loosen. When she calls her daughter to say, ‘There’s something I have to tell you’, Eleanor hopes this will be the moment she learns the truth about the terrible secret that has cast a shadow over both their lives.

But Marjorie’s memory is failing fast and she can’t recall what she wanted to say. Eleanor knows time is running out, and as she tries to gently uncover the truth before it becomes lost inside her mother’s mind forever, she begins to discover what really happened when she was a child – and why…

mythoughts

Eleanor and her mother, Marjorie, have always had a bit of a difficult relationship. Now Marjorie has Alzheimer’s. She’s convinced she needs to tell her daughter something but she can’t remember what it is. Is the secret Marjorie has been holding on to for so long the reason their relationship is so complicated?

The story starts with a prologue set in 1967 with Marjorie giving birth to a baby boy, Peter. But it’s clear from the start that Peter isn’t a healthy baby and something happens to him that rips the family apart. It’s not something Marjorie has ever been willing to talk about and Eleanor doesn’t remember.

Having had a bit of a complicated relationship myself with my mother and also having a grandmother suffering from dementia, I was a bit worried I might not be able to get through this book since it hit so close to home.  Seeing Marjory struggle with losing her grip on her memories was sometimes hard to read yet I also found solace in her heartwarming friendship with Peggy. And the author has such a beautiful writing style that I soon found myself swept away in the lives of Marjorie, Eleanor and Peggy.

What She Lost is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking novel. At times it’s truly sad and heartbreaking, yet it’s also been sympathetically done as it deals with rather heavy topics ranging from mental health issues to dementia and teenage pregnancy. The characters are amazingly realistic and believable and I have no doubt they will stay with me for quite some time. This was my first introduction to the author but I can already safely say that it won’t be my last.

Many thanks to author Susan Elliot Wright for my copy, which I chose to review honestly!

What She Lost is available now!

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