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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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12 hours ago, Madeleine said:

The Lost Man by Jane Harper -   8/10

 

Sounds excellent Madeleine, have made a note of it :)

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She's definitely a new favourite author.

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The Lost Man sounds like an interesting read! :)

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Yes it is, I'm glad we don't have that heat here!

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Cragside by L J Ross - this is the 6th in the DCI Ryan series, and now that the story arc featuring serial killer The Hacker has finally come to an end, Ryan and his team are trying to get back to normal. Ryan and his fiancée Anna had both their homes either destroyed or desecrated in the previous book, so whilst they find somewhere else to live they're staying in a cottage on the real life Cragside estate, a National Trust property with a huge eccentric house perched on a hillside. Ryan and Anna are invited to a murder mystery evening at the house, and as often happens with these events, suddenly everyone is plunged into darkness and when the lights come back on, the owner's elderly valet is found dead at the bottom of the basement stairs, where he'd gone to check the fusebox. At first it's thought to be an accident, but then a young art restorer who'd been working at the house is found dead in a ravine on the estate, and not surprisingly the police get very suspicious. Old secrets and grievances start to come out, and when another staff member meets a violent end, Ryan and his team have a race against time to find the culprit before anyone else is killed. Another enjoyable read, with a great setting, and also a new story arc set up in the form of someone from Ryan's old career in the Metropolitan Police in London, who gets the job of Superintendent, meaning that she's his boss, and these two have a history. 7.5/10

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The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths - latest in the Stephens and Mephisto series set in 1950s Brighton, it's now 1953 and Max Mephisto is headlining the variety show in the town, performing a double magic act with his daughter Ruby, who he didn't even know existed until a few years ago. Now she's engaged to his best friend, policeman Edgar Stephens, but when a young woman is murdered at theatrical digs, seemingly posed to mimic a scene from another act in the variety show, the two men find themselves once again involved with murder. Max's relationship with one of the showgirls ends in disaster, and there are also issues with the various personal relationships too, both among the theatre folk and the police, with ambitious young WPC Emma Holmes very much taking a leading role in this story. Another solid read from this reliable author, although not as enjoyable as her Ruth Galloway series, but still entertaining, and very evocative of Brighton during a snowy winter just before Christmas, with it's tales of stern theatrical landladies and a cast of colourful characters. 7/10

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The Scandal by Mari Hannah - 3rd in the Stone and Oliver crime series set in and around Newcastle-on-Tyne. It's not long before Christmas and DI Frankie Oliver is shocked to discover that a stabbing victim is a young man who was her childhood friend; his family lived opposite to Frankie's house, and after his journalist father was killed on assignment abroad, his mother started drinking heavily and he would seek solace with Frankie and her own parents, who still keep an eye on his mother now. A journalist himself, he was working on some sort of apparent cover-up at a local, very expensive old people's home, owned by a local dignitary. When the police discover that Alice, a former employee at the home, has also gone missing (it was thought she'd gone to live in the US) and her children haven't heard from her for over a year, they investigate further and find that Chris, the young journalist, had been in touch with her. Sensing a link, they start to look at the home and it's workers, and Stone's nephew Ben, who has journalistic ambitions of his own, sees this as a perfect opportunity to impress Stone and Oliver (whom he idolises), but inevitably puts himself in danger. This was another enjoyable instalment in an entertaining series, and at least two more are planned. 8/10

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The Scandal sounds interesting, I don't think I've ever read a book set in Newcastle! 

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"The Stranger Diaries" by Elly Griffiths - this is a stand-alone novel by the author of the Ruth Galloway, and Stephens & Mephisto crime series, and is set in Sussex. Clare Cassidy teaches English at a nearby school, and also creative writing during the holidays, and at the same time is working on a biography of the author R M Holland, who used to live in the house which now forms part of the school's original premises, and in fact his study is still there, complete with many of his personal possessions. He once wrote a famous Gothic horror short story - The Stranger - which is gradually told throughout the book, but the modern day story which unfolds is just as frightening, when one of the other English teachers, and Clare's one-time closest friend, is murdered in her own home. Initially it's seen as either a break-in gone wrong, or that Clare knew her killer, but when another teacher is murdered, this time at the school itself, the police look more closely at the English department. The story is told in 3 different voices, Clare herself, then the detective sergeant who's in charge of the case - Harbinder Kaur, a likeable British Asian who still lives with her parents, loves her mum's cooking and is coming to terms with being gay, and Clare's daughter Georgia. I found the changes of narrator jarred slightly at first, once I got used to one voice it switched to another, but it was interesting to get a different perspective, although I thought Georgia was the weakest (and least used) narrator. But it was well-written and entertaining, if not quite as involving as the Galloway series, and the setting was good, and it felt like a real tribute to the Gothic genre, although it's bang up to date with references to modern popular culture, including a near obsession with Strictly Come Dancing! And even the dog is a major character, bless him. 7.5/10

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A Summer Reunion by Fanny Blake - Amy Green is approaching her 60th birthday, but instead of feeling like celebrating, she feels more like crying, as her husband has not only run off with her colleague and close friend, but has stolen £200K from the design business which they had set up together and run for decades. Feeling betrayed, she also starts to mull over incidents from her school days, when she was expelled for supposedly stealing a teacher's watch, after she'd accused him of improper conduct. She's always suspected that the watch was planted, and she's convinced that one of her group of friends was really responsible. Now, as all four women approach the same milestone birthday, she decides to find out what really happened over 40 years ago, and to that end invites them all to spend a long weekend at her house in Majorca. Much to her amazement, they all accept and they are also at a crossroads - Linda, a librarian who's never married but had a long, now defunct, affair with a married male colleague, is facing redundancy and an uncertain future; Kate is a happily married farmer's wife with 4 children, but is feeling taken for granted, especially when she sees what her husband has bought her for her birthday; and then there's Jane, a highly respected cancer doctor who is now facing a tribunal, and who was always the ringleader in their little group. Have they changed? Will Amy finally find out who really caused her to be expelled from school, and thus miss out on her own dream of becoming a doctor? Old secrets come tumbling out, and a chance (and highly coincidental) encounter on the island results in many revelations, and old schools being settled. This was an amiable enough read, with a beautiful setting and it was nice to see some more mature women taking the lead for a change! Although some of the outcomes are a little unlikely, the story at least doesn't always take the usual, expected turn, and the main characters were generally believable, although I wouldn't like to have been friends with Jane! Not a bad holiday read. 6.5/10

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On ‎02‎/‎08‎/‎2019 at 8:43 PM, Hayley said:

The Scandal sounds interesting, I don't think I've ever read a book set in Newcastle! 

No it's not that common a setting , but after visiting the area last year it's nice to read books set round there, plus it's a little bit different to the usual locations!

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A Summer Reunion sounds interesting! Shame it wasn't a brilliant book, the synopsis sounds really good.

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It wasn't bad, typical holiday read.

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My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas - Zelda and her best friend Lennie are both nearly 40 and fed up with their lives, Lennie is still at home with his mum, Zelda has had to give up her vintage clothing shop due to high rates, few customers etc, so both jump at the change to start afresh when they hear of a scheme to try to get new people to move to a small town in Sicily; they're promised relocation fees and new homes, but of course, when they get there they find their homes are unfinished and the relocation money has been diverted to build a gym for the local "godfather" (it is Sicily after all!) who seems to want to stifle any attempt at breathing new life into the town, even the locals aren't allowed to farm the main crop - lemons - as they get more money from the EU if they leave the lemon groves to rot. Only Giuseppe, the man behind the scheme, and Luca who owns the local restaurant (and who of course Zelda immediately falls in love with) seem to want the newcomers to be successful. Meanwhile Zelda and Lennie have agreed to carry out their pact - that if they weren't married or at least settled with someone by their 40th birthday, they would marry each other. But now, with Luca making her go weak every time she sees him, and the fact that, much as she loves Lennie as a best friend, there is no frisson at all between them, Zelda wonders if she's doing the right thing, plus the local "godfather" is also Luca's dad. No prizes for guessing how it all turns out, it's a feelgood book and I don't think it's a spoiler to say that it all turns out OK in the end. Another holiday read, with a lovely setting (and some nice recipes as well!). 6/10


The Likeness by Tana French - this is the second in the Dublin Murder series, and focusses on Cassie Maddox, one of the detectives from the excellent first book. After the events of the earlier murder investigation, she's now working for the Domestic Violence Unit, until a colleague from her previous days as an undercover officer contacts her - a young woman has been found murdered in a derelict cottage, and she is Cassie's double, and the name she was using is the same name that Cassie used when she was working as a UC (undercover) on a drugs case. Her superior decides to take the risk that no one knows that "Lexie" as she was known, is dead, she's got no next of kin and was sharing a house with other students, so the police concoct an elaborate charade in which Cassie will again pretend to be Lexie, and will say that she was badly injured, but once she recovers, she moves back in with the others to try to find out what happened, while her colleagues try to find out who "Lexie" actually was. Although intriguing, I thought this was far too drawn out, at nearly 700 pages it seemed to go on for ever, with the last hundred pages or so, and final reveal, feeling rather rushed. We learn a lot, or so it would seem, about Lexie/Cassie's housemates, who all live in a ramshackle house in the middle of the countryside (it was inherited by Daniel, the self styled leader of the group) and there are definite shades of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" here, and, like that book, most of the characters aren't very likeable, OK they're young and idealistic, and inevitably their carefully constructed, insular world eventually starts to fall apart. There was some tension as to whether the duplicity would be uncovered, and although the book was very well-written I didn't find it as gripping as the first one, and found the ending rather ambiguous. I'd still read more in this series though, it's certainly different to the usual crime series. 7/10

Edited by Madeleine

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L'Auberge by Julia Stagg - this is another Brits abroad tale, this time set in France, where Paul and Lorna have bought the auberge of the town of Fogas, a run down property which needs a lot of work and money spent, and therefore fails it's first inspection. Another reason why it fails is because the mayor doesn't want anyone, especially English people, to set up in the town. But the other locals aren't quite as hostile, and gradually, during severe winter storms and a terrifying fire which almost claims the life of one of the citizens, the locals start to pull together to help Paul and Lorna achieve their dream. As there are five books in the series, no surprises as to how it all turns out, but it's a gentle read, with promises of learning more about the residents of Fogas as the series progresses. 6.5/10

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Dark Skies by L J Ross - another DCI Ryan mystery, set in Northumberland, this time in the picturesque Kielder Water area, the Dark Skies of the title; newly married Ryan is back from honeymoon but finds the new Superintendent is making changes to his team, essentially she's splitting them up, assigning one of them to the Cold Case unit, and keeping Ryan in the office instead of on the frontline - and these two also have a history; when Ryan was in London's Met force, they had a brief fling, but now she seems to be anything but sentimental. However when a murder takes place near the Kielder Water reservoir, and another body from years ago is found by a diver, the two cases seem to be connected, and Ryan moves to the temporary incident room set up nearby. As the investigation closes in, it looks like old secrets are about to re-surface, and it really is a case of still waters running deep. Not the best of the Ryan mysteries, it's a little pedestrian and the new set up of the police team needs a bit of getting used to, but it looks like new storylines for Ryan's team are being set up, and it won't be a smooth transition to the new way of working for anyone. And the setting, as always, is stunning and well-used. 7.5/10

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The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon - another episode in the long running, Venice-set series starring Inspector Guido Brunetti, in which he is visited by an acquaintance of his wife, who is worried that her teenager son has become involved with drugs. However, as she has no proof of this apart from the usual teenage behaviour, and no evidence at all, he can't do very much apart from checking to see if there have been any reports of drug dealing at the boy's school. Then a man is found badly injured at the foot of one of Venice's bridges; initially the police think he was the victim of an attempted robbery or a fight, but then they discover he's the boy's father. As he lies in a coma, Brunetti still can't get much help from the man's wife, but she does mention something about an elderly aunt being given coupons by her pharmacist in lieu of her regular medicine, which opens up a whole new line of enquiry for the police. Although I enjoyed this, it wasn't the best of these books that I've read, it bowls along quite nicely but ultimately it felt a little bit unsatisfying. But Brunetti and his family are still great characters, and these books are always easy, cosy reads. 6.5/10

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The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths - latest in the Ruth Galloway series and much better than the previous, Italian-set entry which was a bit disappointing. A lot of this book harks back to the first in the series - it's 10 years since the first book now - with a ghost from the past returning, in the form of Leif, who is the son of Erik, Ruth's mentor who was a major character in "The Crossing Places". Leif has returned to excavate another henge on the Norfolk coast, and yet again 2 bodies are found, one not unexpected, the other very unexpected and much more recent. DCI Nelson, celebrating the birth of a surprise 3rd child, finds himself investigating a cold case - the disappearance of a young girl on the day of Charles and Diana's wedding back in 1981. Old family secrets come out as the police try to get justice for the victim, whilst Ruth wrestles with several upheavals in her private life. Another entertaining, at times quirky tale, with a fair bit of humour and drama too. 7.5/10

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Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch - latest episode in the Peter Grant series known as "Rivers of London", another hugely entertaining, adrenaline-fuelled adventure in which he finally meets his nemesis - Mr Punch - and Martin Chorley aka the Faceless Man is also on his trail. Peter's private life is also getting interesting, and KIng Arthur and Excalibur are in there too. Yet again it's grounded in reality, with quite a lot about London history and more recent events and developments, including some of the monstrous structures appearing all over the City. Great fun. 7.5/10

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On 04/10/2019 at 3:57 PM, Madeleine said:

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch .... 7.5/10

 

Useful reminder, thank you!  Read the first couple, but for some reason haven't got around to the others, even though on shelves read to go.  With a review like that, have to pick up one soon!

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On 08/10/2019 at 5:05 PM, willoyd said:

 

Useful reminder, thank you!  Read the first couple, but for some reason haven't got around to the others, even though on shelves read to go.  With a review like that, have to pick up one soon!

 

They are good books.

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The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield - second in the Cornish mysteries set during the 18th century. Shilly and her companion Anna Drake are at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor when they hear of a missing boy, supposedly abducted by two strange women who have taken up residence in the village of Trethevy. Hearing of a reward, the two would be detectives head off to see the squire, and are duly commissioned to find the boy and get rid of the women before the villagers do. The natives are hostile snd Shilly finds the trees particularly oppressive, but they soon discover that the women, who are from Germany, are probably innocent, so they have a race to not only rescue the boy, but also save the two women from being killed as witches, and find out who the true culprit is. Actually that wasn't that hard to guess, but this was an enjoyable, atmospheric mystery, very easy to read and with a hint of the supernatural and folklore thrown in. 7.5/10

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I admire your reading consistency. How many books have you read so far this year?

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