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    • Hayley

      Something Wicked This Way Comes...   10/09/2019

      The Autumn Supporter Giveaway!       Welcome to the very first of the seasonal BCF supporter giveaways! This month also marks one year since I took on the forum, so I want to say an extra huge thank you to all of you for keeping this place going. I have a little bit more to say about that later but, for now, let's get to the giveaway!     The Autumn Giveaway winner will be getting two Penguin Little Black Classics, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and To Be Read At Dusk by Charles Dickens. Both of these little books contain three atmospheric short stories, perfect for autumnal evenings. The winner will also get Mary Shelley tea (a lavender and vanilla black tea) from Rosie Lea Tea's Literary Tea Collection (https://www.rosieleatea.co.uk/collections/literary-tea-collection) and a chocolate skull, to really get that spooky atmosphere .   and...   A special treat for a special month. The winner will choose one of the following recent paperback releases from the independent bookshop Big Green Bookshop:       The Wych Elm by Tana French A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan Melmoth by Sarah Perry The Familiars by Stacey Halls  The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White   The winner will be chosen via the usual random selection process in one week. Patreon supporters are entered automatically. If you aren't a patreon supporter but you'd like to join in with this giveaway, you can support here: https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum.   I really hope you're all going to like this introduction to the seasonal giveaways. It's been a lot of fun to put together. Other chocolate skulls may have been harmed during the selection process…     
Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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I'm reading High Force (5 in the Ryan series) at the moment, and have just found there's a new one out soon, hooray:yahoo:

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"A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central" by Anja de Jager - this is the 2nd book in the Lotte Meerman series, again set in Amsterdam and it starts with what looks like a workplace accident when a decorator falls from a window of a new building he was working on. But when Lotte and his widow find a left luggage ticket in his jacket which leads them to a bin bag containing a skeleton, which he was seen storing on CCTV at the station, things take a strange turn. Initially it's thought that the body is one from the War, which had been found during the building works (which happened quite a lot in Holland), but when the pathologist finds an extra arm, which is much more recent, the case becomes even more sinister, especially when the arm is identified as belonging to a local criminal! I thought this book was much better than the first one, and Lotte, although likeable, hasn't learnt from her big mistake in the first book, when she started a relationship with one of the suspects! When an old schoolfriend turns up, she's again tempted, but really - twice in a row? Yes she's lonely and finding it hard to get along with her colleagues, but I did find it hard to accept that she'd jump into bed with another potential suspect! Apart from that quibble, this was an enjoyable thriller, and the series is developing nicely. But why do female characters always do stupid things? And yes she goes to investigate various deserted premises without waiting for backup first! 8/10

"High Force" by L J Ross - next in the series set in Northumberland, and this follows on directly from "Angel" which ended on a cliffhanger with one of Ryan's own team being abducted by his worst nightmare - the serial killer The Hacker, who has escaped from prison in an audacious break out attempt. It's a race against time as Ryan and his team struggle to rescue their colleague, and in the meantime the Hacker is still claiming more victims, and taunting Ryan every step of the way. To say this case is personal is putting it mildly. This was another hugely entertaining (albeit slightly gory!) read, with some good character development and a gripping final showdown. These books would make a great TV series! 8/10

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It's a shame about Lotte again starting a relationship with one of the suspects, that seems highly inappropriate, especially twice! I'm glad that the book was otherwise enjoyable though :).

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Yep i can't stand it when characters don't learn from their mistakes!  Still it's early days yet in the series.

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A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri - another case for the Sicilian inspector and his team when a local businessman is found murdered in his home, it turns out he was ruthless towards his competitors, and a total womaniser, therefore the list of suspects is endless, even his own son isn't too bothered by his father's violent demise. Then it turns out he was killed twice -first poisoned, then shot.... Montalbano has to sort out the mystery, as well as dealing with his own rather turbulent private life, with his whiny girlfriend Livia dropping in and out, only to argue and flounce off, and there's lots of lovely food as well! These stories aren't to be taken seriously, there are so many plot holes and breaches of police etiquette that Montalbano should have been fired years ago, but they're enjoyable light reads, with the feeling that good, in some form, will prevail in the end. 7/10

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I think Sarah has mentioned this series/author to me before, she liked the TV series I believe. I liked reading your review :)!

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Glad you enjoyed it, the TV series is good, especially the Young Montalbano who is rather swoonsome!:wub:

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Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer by M C Beaton - latest in the series in which Agatha, increasingly fed up with the humdrum work at her detective agency and her distinct lack of a love life, finds herself embroiled in the heady world of bell-ringers, when she's asked to investigate the disappearance of the local bishop's former fiancée. The bishop is very easy on the eye, and whilst Agatha's head is first turned by him and then by a journalist, the bodies start to pile up. Is the bishop involved somehow? Attempts on Agatha's life follow, and she finally decides to do some proper detective work after an attempt on her own life. These books seems to be becoming more rushed with each one, although, despite the events in this book taking place over a period of about 18 months or so, Agatha and her friends never seem to age, in fact the books seem to be set in a time-warp. The plot follows the usual lines now, Agatha loses her head to one or more men, her friends and colleagues try to talk her out of another disastrous love affair, there's a lot of rushing around, various people come and go for no apparent reason at all, and the murder ofa policeman, who was already in trouble (and surely should have been sacked a long time ago) for selling stories to the Press, seems to be completely ignored. Then Agatha finally coms to her senses and actually does some work and solves the case. Although this is easy reading and doesn't pretend to be anything else, I'm finding Agatha is becoming rather tiresome now, she seems to have been in her early/mid fifties for about 10 years, and the whole formula is becoming increasingly tiresome and frankly boring, I think it's time Agatha either finally moved on (or retired!) 6/10

Edited by Madeleine

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It's a shame the books are getting too formulaic and boring :(.

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The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine - this is another hugely enjoyable time-slip novel, this time set in Scotland (mainly Edinburgh) and features one of the author's own ancestors, her 5(I think) x great grandfather Thomas Erskine, who rose to prominence in UK politics and dined with the likes of the Prince of Wales. But his beginnings were humble, and he started as a midshipman on a merchant ship sailing the West Indies, where he made several acquaintances which were to dominate his life, some good and one in particular which literally continued to haunt him and his family through the centuries, as his own descendant, Ruth Dunbar, discovers when she goes to her father's house to clear it out following his death. She'd been estranged from him for years, especially since her mother died, and has been working down in London, but she has a nasty shock when she moves back in to her father's house, for his lodger and supposed carer, Timothy, claims to be his long-lost son, and that the old man left him the house. Ruth's solicitor promises to investigate and to try to obtain proof, meanwhile she can live in the house, but after a campaign of harassment from Timothy she goes to stay with a friend of hers at his house in the Borders. Meanwhile she's found some of her mother's property (valuables are missing, presumably sold by the odious Timothy) including letters and diaries written by Thomas and, later, one of his daughters (he had about 8 children, I lost count after a while!), and as Ruth reads the old memoirs, the past literally starts to come alive for her. But Thomas isn't the only ghost who visits her, and the other spirit isn't so benign. Worse, Timothy and his sister April are still planning to get the house from Ruth, but Timothy too finds himself haunted. I enjoyed this, it did get more bizarre as it went on, but some of it, especially at the start, is genuinely creepy. The setting, moving between Edinburgh and the Borders is great, and there's lashings of the author's usual atmosphere. And an interesting story too, as her ancestor's history and rise in society and politics is gradually revealed, although I also liked reading about his childhood in Scotland too. 8/10

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Our House by Louise Candlish - following their marriage break-up, Bram and Fi Larson have separated and are co-parenting, taking turns to spend time at their lovely house, or the small flat they're renting. Then one weekend Fi goes away with her new lover, only to return early and find someone else moving into her house. It seems that Bram has sold the house without telling her, even attending the open house viewing and meeting the new buyers. The story is then told from both of their perspectives, some in the present as both parties try to come to terms with what's happened, and also the background, and what led to Bram doing such a monumentally outrageous act. Some of Fi's story is told via a podcast, with the accompanying comments from the Greek chorus of Twitter, which I found a bit irritating, but thankfully wasn't used too much. Most of my sympathy was with Fi, as Bram seems to be so full of self pity that he became quite tiresome, and I couldn't help but think that he got what he deserved. The bad guys, as it were, are also totally unlikeable, and although there were some good twists along the way, and it's certainly a page-turner, I felt that the ending let it down a bit, it felt rushed and a bit too simple. So it loses a point for that, otherwise it would have been 9/10! 8/10

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Our House sounds interesting! An unusual premise for sure. I shall add it to my wishlist. Great reviews :).

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Date with Malice by Julia Chapman - the 2nd in the Dales mystery series and this time Samson (a suspended Met Police officer who's returned to his hometown under a bit of a cloud) and Delilah (a local woman who has set up her own dating agency) find themselves investigating suspicious goings on at the local old people's home, where Samson's dad is one of the residents. Meanwhile he's still trying to get accepted by the locals after being away for so long, and Delilah's ex husband is threatening to sue her for custody of....their dog! On top of that Christmas is coming and, inevitably, Samson and Delilah find themselves becoming increasingly attracted to each other. Another enjoyable instalment in this "cosy crime" series. 7/10


Water Proof by Chris Crowther - this was given to me as a thank you present from a friend for looking after her dog recently for a weekend! She went to the Norfolk Broads and this book is set on the Broads, it's a cosy crime series with the main character being former Met police officer Jack Fellowes, who's now left the Force and done what he always wanted to do, ie live in the Broads, spending most of his time on the water, where he works as a Ranger. When an extremely unpopular local man is found murdered on his floating museum, there's a long list of suspects - the young eel fisherman who received a jail sentence thanks to trumped up charges, the young widow whose husband, a local boatyard owner, committed suicide after the man made him bankrupt (and who is also now threatening to force the widow out of their home), the local councillor with whom he's been having an affair and is all but blackmailing into pushing through his dodgy business deals....etc. Even the local vicar is in the frame and it's all down to Jack and the local police who try to figure out who the culprit is, even though it seems to be an open and shut case. An entertaining , gentle read with some lovely illustrations too. 7/10

Edited by Madeleine

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Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon - Florence is in her 80s, and when we first meet her she's lying on the floor of her flat in an old people's home, having fallen over, and whilst she waits for help, she looks back over her life and recent events at the home, which have turned her world upside down. It all started when a new man arrived, calling himself Gabriel Price, but Elsie is convinced he is really Ronnie Butler, an old friend from her younger years who supposedly drowned sixty years ago. Then strange things start happening in her flat, she's convinced that things are going missing or being moved around eg the elephant ornament which always faces the same way, and then there's the incident involving several Battenburg cakes (hence the UK cover). No one believes her at first, and, terrified she'll be sent to the dementia home instead, she insists that something sinister is going on. Then a weekend in Whitby changes everything, and Florence's memory of a long buried incident finally comes back to her, and she starts to worry that she may be in danger. I wasn't sure what to make of this, it's quirky and quite funny at times, but also sad, although there are some lovely friendships, I especially liked her friend Jack, though I had my suspicions as to Elsie's true identity. I did find that the middle section dragged a bit, and it only really came alive when the group went to Whitby, and discovered the truth about the real Gabriel Price. 7/10

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Three Things About Joanna Cannon sounds great! Also Our House sounds interesting.

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The Mechanical Devil by Kate Ellis - when two people are shot dead near the site of an old manor house, the police assume that the main victim was event planning organiser, Andrea, who had made a few enemies in business, and that the other, a male walker, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore had to be eliminated too. But as the police delve further, there seems to be a connection between Andrea and missing local girl, Jocasta Overard, whose father is a prominent local MP, tipped for big things in Parliament. Why was Jocasta seen getting out of Andrea's car not far from where the woman's body was found? And then there's another link, to Xander Southwark, a former fraudster who now runs a wellness (I hate that word!) spa nearby, which Andrea was on her way to when she was murdered? And if that wasn't enough, Wesley's wife Pam seems to have a stalker, something she doesn't need, as she's recovering from cancer treatment. This was another enjoyable instalment in the Wesley Peterson series, which got more involving after a rather slow start. Although I guessed parts of the story - the stalker's ID, to me, was pretty obvious all the way along, and there were other clues that I'm surprised the police didn't pick up sooner. But I found the accompanying historical story, that of the so-called Mechanical Devil, fascinating, and would love to see the little monk in action! 7/10

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Joanna Cannon has been popping up quite a lot on my social media recently.

 

Would you recommend her novels? What is she like as a writer?

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I really liked Three Things About Elsie. I listening to it on Audible, and thought the story was great. :)

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I think "Elsie" is only her second novel.  I haven't read the other one.

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The Last Hours by Minette Walters - this author is best known in the UK as a crime writer, with several of her books adapted for TV, but this is the first part of a trilogy (I think, the 2nd book has just come out in paperback) focussing on the plague in mid-14th century England, and is centred on the Dorset town of Develish, which quarantines itself to stop the pestilence spreading, following the death of it's lord, who was visiting another demesne to secure the marriage of his daughter - unfortunately, the plague had already reached that area, and he and his retinue soon succumbed, suffice to say, the wedding was off, leaving his wife in charge at Develish. The quarantine seems to be working, with no new casualties, although one high ranking serf, Gyles, who was the team, has somehow managed to avoid catching the terrifying illness. But after a while the villagers start to become fractious, and their rations will of course, not last forever, so the new steward, a mixed race, illegitimate serf called Thaddeus Thirkell, decides to venture outside and find out if any other villages have survived. He takes with him 5 sons, including twins, of some of the serfs, who have all been implicated in the death of his half-brother Jacob. Although saddened at the boy's death, there was no love lost and he wasn't a very likeable character, but Lady Anne and Sir Richard's daughter Eleanor has been causing trouble amongst the youths herself, with assignations in the church, and tensions are rising, so to try to defuse the situation, Thaddeus decides to remove the young men in his quest to find out what's happening in the outside world. At this point the book divides into two storylines, one telling of Thaddeus's adventures outside the only village he's ever known, the other chronicling Develish's fight to keep the plague out, and also repel attacks from other lords, as once word gets out that Sir Richard is no longer around, they see both his wife and the town as another possible asset. The book picked up at this point, and both stories were quite gripping, and although the writing never really felt like a historical novel, I liked the characters of Thaddeus and Lady Anne; the baddies are a bit clichéd however, but I'm intrigued enough to find out what happens next, and have bought the sequel. 7/10

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I've read A Dreadful Murder by the same author, though I didn't know she wrote historical fiction as well. A Dreadful Murder is a historical (based on) true-crime book (novella length) and I liked it. Glad you enjoyed The Last Hours enough to buy the sequel, I hope you enjoy it :).

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Yes I think The Last Hours is her first historical novel. 

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The Lost Man by Jane Harper - this is the 3rd novel by this author and is a stand-alone in that it doesn't feature investigator Aaron Falk, and although I enjoyed this book, I did miss him! LIke the other books it's also set in an isolated part of Australia, in this case a farm, and the main character is Nathan Bright, who's summoned back to his family home from his own, almost as isolated farm, after his younger brother Cameron is found dead in the middle of nowhere, which is strange, as Cam, like the whole family, grew up in the area, and his car is found, several miles from his body, but well stocked with emergency supplies of food and water in case of a breakdown. But the car is fine, so how did Cam, who doesn't have any sign of violence on him, get separated from his car? Nathan, like Falk in "The Dry", has also been ostracised from his community for something he did, or rather didn't do, many years ago, so he has many awkward encounters, plus it's nearly Christmas and his son from his broken marriage has come to stay, so the situation is fraught with tension, as well as dealing with his own grief, comforting his family - mother, plus Cam's wife and 2 daughters, and trying to find out what really happened. But once his brother's funeral has taken place, old secrets start to be revealed, and he discovers a whole side to his brother which he never knew existed, although some clues were there. I found this an enjoyable, engrossing read, with the author's familiar themes of isolation and someone being a social outcast very much in evidence, and the characters were all vividly drawn, and the sense of desolation and yes, the heat, was also well described. An excellent author, with a great setting as well. 8/10

Edited by Madeleine

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