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Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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On 13/01/2020 at 11:12 AM, Madeleine said:

Yes it was a good sub plot, especially as their temporary boss was so awful!

Yes! He was a good unlikeable character. 
 

23 hours ago, Raven said:

 

Calm down, it's just a place where steam engines were put together (they usually have large cranes in their roofs that can lift the body of the loco on and off its wheels). 

To be fair though, in the Railway Detective, murder is probably what’s happening in the erecting shed. Or the discovery of a body. Or a dramatic chase scene... 

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26 minutes ago, Hayley said:

To be fair though, in the Railway Detective, murder is probably what’s happening in the erecting shed. Or the discovery of a body. Or a dramatic chase scene... 

 

You are quite right, the body was discovered there, according to Madeleine's review!

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The House on Vesper Sands" by Paraic O’Donnell - it's London, 1893, and young working class women are going missing, reportedly taken by the Spiriters. At first, the police think this is a bizarre rumour put round, but when a young seamstress commits suicide, and yet another girl goes missing, they finally take notice, and the indomitable Inspector Cutter is put on the case. A young man, Gideon Bliss, a theology student who's been staying with his uncle in London, is looking for the missing girl, who had been staying with his uncle - Gideon had been tasked with teaching her how to read, and there was an attraction between the two. He does find her briefly, in a church in a distressed and feverish state, but he's clobbered and drugged, and when he comes round she's gone again. When Cutter mistakes him for a policeman, Gideon decides to go along with the deception and finds himself on the case, for by now his uncle is also missing, as is an Earl who owns the house where the seamstress killed herself. The Earl has another house, the titular house in Kent, and the police head down there in search of answers. Also on the case is a young journalist, Octavia, who takes it on herself to investigate the Spiriters and their link to all these disappearances. Overall I enjoyed this, I liked Octavia who managed to be more than the usual feisty Victorian young lady who won't conform to what's normally expected of her, and Gideon, although a bit of a wimp at first, does come through as the story goes on. I did feel it was a bit over-written though, and as it went on and the supernatural element took over, it started to feel a bit like a Victorian X files story! But I think there could be potential in the 3 main investigators for more adventures, although it did feel a bit rushed at the end. 7.5/10

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Murder at the Fitzwilliam by Jim Eldridge - this is the first in a new series set in late Victorian England, and is set in Cambridge's famous Fitzwilliam Museum. When an unidentified body is found in a sarcophagus in the Egyptian Room, former policeman, and now what we would call private detective/investigator, Daniel Wilson is called in. At first it's assumed to be a break in that went wrong, although how he ended up in the sarcophagus is unclear, but when one of the museum's nightwatchmen is also found murdered, it looks like the cases might be linked. Daniel is helped by archaeologist Abigail, who also wants to find out who is desecrating her beloved museum, and the museum are also keen to get the case solved, especially with the Press printing sensational stories about an escaped mummy being responsible. The case deepens when Daniel is attacked in the street, and coupled with the growing attraction between himself and Abigail (which of course both try to deny) it looks like there won't be a simple resolution any time soon. This was an enjoyable, cosy period crime read with two likeable (although I did want to shake them occasionally!) protagonists, and the two are set for more adventures, as the 5th book in the series is due out in the summer. I would like to know more about Daniel's background, he worked with Inspector Fred Abberline on the Ripper cases, and this is often referred to in the book, so hopefully a prequel might be due at some point? I'd certainly like to know more! 7.5/10

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I will probably try to pick up Murder At The Fitzwilliam and The House On Vesper Sands, they sound like fun. By the way have you read The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt?

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On ‎24‎/‎01‎/‎2020 at 6:12 PM, vodkafan said:

I will probably try to pick up Murder At The Fitzwilliam and The House On Vesper Sands, they sound like fun. By the way have you read The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt?

I have the Victoria Holt on my tbr list.  Is that set in a similar area to the fictitious Vesper Sands, which I assume (going by the book's references to shipwrecks) is in reality the Goodwin Sands?

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Yes. It's also set in the same time period. 

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"Intrigue in Covent Garden" by Susanna Gregory - this is the 13th in the Thomas Chaloner series, set in Restoration London and takes place over Christmas and January 1665/66. Chaloner, a spy, finds himself investigating several cases, the most important one being a plot which will at best cause riots and at worst might well be another attempt to take out the King (the restored Charles II) and as many of his courtiers as possible. A troupe of actors has arrived in the City and seems intent on stirring up rebellion, along with a self styled preacher Urban, who wants the protests to be peaceful but is planting more seeds of provocation amongst the ordinary people of the City, those who survived the plague, and are furious at the King for fleeing the City during the outbreak, and for living a life of debauchery and flamboyance ever since his Restoration. There's also the ongoing hostility with the Dutch, including a disastrous battle, and the mysterious sinking of a British warship whilst at anchor in London, the murder of 2 physicians, removing a Dutch spy to safety, hunting for a missing courtier's wife, and bizarrely, searching for a missing trumpet which will play an important part at the forthcoming Fast, which supposedly will commemorate and remember Charles I's execution. So Chaloner is pretty busy, and soon becomes caught up in the endless plotting and various machinations of the Court, and then a known assassin decided he wants to help him with his inquiries! This was a very convoluted plot, and it took me a while to work out who everyone was, but once I got that straight I quite enjoyed it, although it did flag a little at times and felt a bit repetitive. But it certainly got eventful, with subterfuge, explosions and a vast list of characters, most of whom, according to the author's note, really existed, so it covers a fascinating area of history too. And Chaloner is, as always, an engaging likeable character, even though sometimes he has to do some very unsavoury things. 7.5/10

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The Hunting Party" by Lucy Foley - a group of friends from London, all with good, high powered jobs - 4 couples and 1 single woman - are at a hunting lodge in a remote part of Scotland, which has now been converted into a luxury resort, the only other occupants are an Icelandic couple who are staying in a separate part of the complex, Heather who is in charge of admin/housekeeping etc, and Doug, the gamekeeper who keeps himself very much to himself and doesn't mix with anyone else unless he has to or it's work related. The Londoners all travel up by train together, and before the celebrations have even started old tensions - most of them were at Oxford together - are beginning to surface, but these are brushed off as the midnight hour approaches, and a lot of alcohol is drunk, a few drugs are taken, and before the New Year is even halfway through it's first day, one of the group is found dead in a ravine, having been reported missing earlier. It's fairly obvious that the death wasn't an accidental drunken fall, and even more obvious that the killer is someone at the Lodge. As snow falls heavily, the Lodge is cut off and although the police are informed, not even Mountain Rescue can get to the area for several hours, maybe even days, at least. So as the residents all wait, and live in fear as to who the killer is, we gradually get their back stories. We don't know the identity of the victim (although I wasn't surprised when I found out who it was, as I'd suspected all along), but in a clever twist as the climax builds, for a time it's not clear who is the killer and who is the victim. For a while I did fear it would end in one of those lurid bloodbaths so beloved of this type of book, but thankfully it didn't go that way, and all was revealed, although I did think the ending was a little rushed, although there were a couple more revelations along the way. This book has been heralded as a breath of fresh air, but personally I don't think it reinvents the country house mystery/thriller genre - the characters are all fairly stock and most of them are pretty two dimensional, apart perhaps from Heather, who does show some character development, but most of the Londoners are depicted as pretty shallow, and the gamekeeper is the classic strong silent type with A Past. But it is a enjoyable romp, and according to the author's note, a TV version is in the works, not surprisingly. 8/10

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"Dear Mrs Bird" by A J Pearce - the main character of this book, despite the title, is actually Emmeline (Emmy) Lane - it's 1941 and WW2 is devastating London, but Emmy wants to be a Lady War Correspondent, and when she gets a job at what she thinks is one of the London newspapers, she's thrilled. But when she reports for work she finds that she will in fact be working on a magazine, "Woman's Friend", answering readers' problems, which is where Mrs Bird comes in. She is Emmy, and her colleague Kathleen's, terrifying boss and to say she rules with a rod of iron is an understatement. She also vets readers' letters and won't answer anything even mildly salacious eg anything to do with Man Trouble and romance in general. But Emmy, a kind soul, feels sorry for many of the readers, and finds even more to empathise with when she is dumped by her fiancé who promptly marries someone else. So she starts replying personally to those readers who have enclosed an address and before long she occasionally slips a reply into the magazine, having been reassured that Mrs Bird never reads her own column. But discovery is of course inevitable, and coming after a personal tragedy, Emmy finds herself bereft on all fronts. However she is nothing if not resilient, and for me this was when the book really took off, as she tried to pick up the pieces of both her life and career. Overall this was an enjoyable book, the first half is very breezy but it does become darker as the war inevitably takes it's toll when it comes very close to home for Emmy and her friends. Emmy is a great character, well meaning and kind (a bit like Jane Austen's Emma but not so scheming, I wonder if the choice of a similar name is coincidental?) but I found Mrs Bird to be something of a cliche and a bit two dimensional, she's the epitome of the classic English lady dragon! But a nice read, well-written and very evocative of the war-time spirit. 8/10

Edited by Madeleine

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All of a Winter's Night by Phil Rickman - strange happenings in the Shropshire village of Ledwardine after Merrily Watkins, priest and deliverance expert (ie exorcist) conducts what seems to be a very plain, rushed funeral for a young farmer killed in a road accident. The night after the internment however, Merrily and her daughter witness some strange activities at his gravesite, which are later confirmed by her boyfriend, Lol, and gravedigger Gomer, who are reluctantly drawn into the case as it looks as if the young man, Aidan Lloyd, may have been deliberately targeted. An old feud is re-opened between his family and that of another local landowner, who seems to have a strange hold over many people in the area. When a female priest from a neighbouring village is murdered, the net widens, and Merrily, whose job is already under threat, finds herself in real danger. I haven't read one of these books for a long time, but enjoyed this one, with it's wonderfully sinister and macabre atmosphere, even thought the plot was a bit convoluted at times, it was still a good, slightly spooky read. 8/10

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"Coming Home to Winter Island" by Jo Thomas - Ruby is a singer with a band, but when she loses her voice at an important gig just before Christmas, she decides to go to a vocal retreat in Tenerife to help heal her voice. But then a phone call from a solicitor in Scotland tells her that she has a grandfather who she didn't know was still alive, but sadly as he is suffering from dementia, he needs to go into a home, and as she is his only living relative, she needs to supervise the sale of his house. So off she goes to Winter Island, but finds there is a problem - the old man, Hector, has a sitting tenant, who refuses to move out, and until he goes, the house can't be sold. At first she thinks the young man, Lachlan, is a freeloader, but when she discovers that he is trying to help fulfil Hector's dream of getting the once famous gin distillery up and running again, she decides to help him, so that she can get out to Tenerife, heal her voice and get back to her band again and hopefully hit the big time. But gradually the island, Hector and of course Lachlan start to get under her skin, plus she really wants to find out why Hector and her late father fell out all those years ago, to the extent that neither of her parents ever mentioned her father's family. This was a nice read, and whilst enjoyable I have one quibble - the author does have the habit of hammering home her theme - so first it was "I must get back to London/the band/Tenerife", then it became "I must find the secret recipe for the gin!" etc, all with lots of exclamation marks! This does become a bit irksome after a while, but apart from that this was a feelgood read, even though the outcome is obvious from the start. Great setting though, I would love to visit this island! 7/10

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"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens - this is set in two time zones, it opens in 1969 when the body of a young man is discovered at the foot of a fire tower, from the position of his body it looks like he was pushed although it could have been an accident.....then the book goes back to 1952 and tells the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, aka the Marsh Girl, and her association with the dead man, Chase. the girl, known as Kya, lives in a shack in the marsh of North Carolina with her family, until her mother, tired of the beatings from her drunken husband, walks out, and is followed one by one by Kya's 4 siblings, who also leave as soon as they're old enough (she's the youngest). Left alone with her father, at first he seems to be making an effort, taking her out in his boat and showing her how to fish etc, but soon he's back to his old ways, and eventually he simply fails to return one day. The local truant officer tries to get her to go to school, but the other children are so nasty that she only stays for one day, and despite their efforts gives them the slip. Eventually she learns to fend for herself, using the fishing and hunting skills she learnt from her father, and she trades some of her catch with the owner of the local boat store, an elderly black man called Jumpin', who helps her when he can, but basically from the age of seven she fends for herself. After a while she befriends a local shrimper's son, Tate, who loves the marsh just as much she does, and he teaches her to read, a skill she uses in later life to study the marsh and it's wildlife and flora, and she becomes a writer of best-selling books. But the romance with Tate flounders once he leaves for college, and Chase, who she's occasionally seen from afar, comes on the scene - he's the local sports hero, from a rich family who sees Kya as a challenge, and he too inevitably lets her down. The years roll by until we get to 1969, and Chase's death, in which Kya is implicated, resulting in a trail and the threat of being separated from her beloved marsh and wildlife for ever. this is very much a book of two halves, the first concentrates on Kya's growing up, the love triangle between her, Tate (when he returns from college) and Chase, whilst the 2nd deals with the fallout from Chase's murder. The first part is very leisurely, with beautiful descriptions of the marsh, sea, lagoons and various birds and animals, which at first are wonderful but after a while I was waiting for something to actually happen, other than the not unpredictable progression of Kya's development from marsh urchin to beautiful young woman. Conversely, the 2nd part of the book feels rather rushed, as if the author was just as eager as Kya to get back to the marsh, and I thought the conclusion was rather hurried, although there is an interesting reveal at the end. So overall a good book, but a bit sluggish at times, but some great characters, and I did feel for Kya, who not surprisingly is convinced that everyone will abandon her. Can't blame her really, she has an appalling early life, but does find happiness in the marsh and it's inhabitants. 7/10

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"Under the Ice" by Rachael Blok - it's just before Christmas and Jenny, a new mother, has what she thinks is a bad dream, that she's outside and she witnesses a girl's murder. Next day though, the news announces that a teenage girl has been found murdered in the local lake, exactly as in Jenny's dream. As she and her husband live near the scene, and he reported seeing a strange car, the police interview Jenny and her husband Will, but the lead detective, Maarten Jansen, thinks she's not telling all she knows. But her "visions"/dreams continue, and then another, younger, girl also goes missing - while the prime suspect for the murder is recovering in hospital from a beating at the hands of the victim's family. So both the police and Jenny are faced with a race against time to find and hopefully save the new victim, Becky, who is also a friend of one of Maarten's daughters. Jenny's strange visions continue, she seems to be sleepwalking, and she's also haunted by something from her past. Overall I enjoyed this book, it was an easy read, but I thought it was rather flawed - I found Jenny irritating after a while ,especially her constant holding back from the police, although, not surprisingly given her "visions", further developments lead to her being treated as a possible suspect, but there's not enough evidence to charge her. It wasn't hard to guess what was haunting her, and I also guessed the murderer's identity about halfway through, and then the author did that annoying thing of having the heroine go off on her own, in the dark, to meet the killer! I would still read her next book though, and the snowy setting of St Albans just before Christmas was well evoked. 7/10

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It sounds like an interesting premise! It annoys me too when the protagonist goes off on their own into a dangerous situation that you just know isn't going to end well. Shame about you guessing the murderer's identity about halfway through the book already. I'm glad it was an enjoyable enough read though, to read more of the author's books.

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The Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor - Alex Pengelly and her brother Johnnie are stunned when their father, David has a severe stroke and they're summoned back to the family home in Cornwall by his second wife, the unpopular and cold Sally, whom he married following the death of their mother Julia, in a mysterious drowning accident. As David lies seriously ill, the now grown children reflect on their lives - forced out of their beloved Cornish home, they both hope they can finally at least be free of Sally and her obnoxious son Mundo, who made their lives a misery during their childhood. Then David passes away and after his will is read, Mundo threatens to fight his half siblings every step of the way. Desperate to find out what really happened to their mother all those years ago, Alex contacts some long lost relatives to find out the truth. The story weaves between Julia's early life, as a student, would be actress and then her lost years until she met David and found, for a time at least, some form of happiness until her old troubles re-surface, and the present day, as Alex struggles to come to terms with her divorce, and setting up her flower decorating business, whilst coping with her grief for her father, and the ghosts from her family's past. this was an Ok read, I thought there was too much of Julia's early life and not enough of the present day issues, which meant that I felt the last part of the book felt rather rushed and a bit too neat. 7/10

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Coming Home to Winter Island" by Jo Thomas - Ruby is a singer with a band, but when she loses her voice at an important gig just before Christmas, she decides to go to a vocal retreat in Tenerife to help heal her voice. But then a phone call from a solicitor in Scotland tells her that she has a grandfather who she didn't know was still alive, but sadly as he is suffering from dementia, he needs to go into a home, and as she is his only living relative, she needs to supervise the sale of his house. So off she goes to Winter Island, but finds there is a problem - the old man, Hector, has a sitting tenant, who refuses to move out, and until he goes, the house can't be sold. At first she thinks the young man, Lachlan, is a freeloader, but when she discovers that he is trying to help fulfil Hector's dream of getting the once famous gin distillery up and running again, she decides to help him, so that she can get out to Tenerife, heal her voice and get back to her band again and hopefully hit the big time. But gradually the island, Hector and of course Lachlan start to get under her skin, plus she really wants to find out why Hector and her late father fell out all those years ago, to the extent that neither of her parents ever mentioned her father's family. This was a nice read, and whilst enjoyable I have one quibble - the author does have the habit of hammering home her theme - so first it was "I must get back to London/the band/Tenerife", then it became "I must find the secret recipe for the gin!" etc, all with lots of exclamation marks! This does become a bit irksome after a while, but apart from that this was a feelgood read, even though the outcome is obvious from the start. Great setting though, I would love to visit this island! 7/10

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens - this is set in two time zones, it opens in 1969 when the body of a young man is discovered at the foot of a fire tower, from the position of his body it looks like he was pushed although it could have been an accident.....then the book goes back to 1952 and tells the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, aka the Marsh Girl, and her association with the dead man, Chase. the girl, known as Kya, lives in a shack in the marsh of North Carolina with her family, until her mother, tired of the beatings from her drunken husband, walks out, and is followed one by one by Kya's 4 siblings, who also leave as soon as they're old enough (she's the youngest). Left alone with her father, at first he seems to be making an effort, taking her out in his boat and showing her how to fish etc, but soon he's back to his old ways, and eventually he simply fails to return one day. The local truant officer tries to get her to go to school, but the other children are so nasty that she only stays for one day, and despite their efforts gives them the slip. Eventually she learns to fend for herself, using the fishing and hunting skills she learnt from her father, and she trades some of her catch with the owner of the local boat store, an elderly black man called Jumpin', who helps her when he can, but basically from the age of seven she fends for herself. After a while she befriends a local shrimper's son, Tate, who loves the marsh just as much she does, and he teaches her to read, a skill she uses in later life to study the marsh and it's wildlife and flora, and she becomes a writer of best-selling books. But the romance with Tate flounders once he leaves for college, and Chase, who she's occasionally seen from afar, comes on the scene - he's the local sports hero, from a rich family who sees Kya as a challenge, and he too inevitably lets her down. The years roll by until we get to 1969, and Chase's death, in which Kya is implicated, resulting in a trail and the threat of being separated from her beloved marsh and wildlife for ever. this is very much a book of two halves, the first concentrates on Kya's growing up, the love triangle between her, Tate (when he returns from college) and Chase, whilst the 2nd deals with the fallout from Chase's murder. The first part is very leisurely, with beautiful descriptions of the marsh, sea, lagoons and various birds and animals, which at first are wonderful but after a while I was waiting for something to actually happen, other than the not unpredictable progression of Kya's development from marsh urchin to beautiful young woman. Conversely, the 2nd part of the book feels rather rushed, as if the author was just as eager as Kya to get back to the marsh, and I thought the conclusion was rather hurried, although there is an interesting reveal at the end. So overall a good book, but a bit sluggish at times, but some great characters, and I did feel for Kya, who not surprisingly is convinced that everyone will abandon her. Can't blame her really, she has an appalling early life, but does find happiness in the marsh and it's inhabitants. 7/10

"Under the Ice" by Rachael Blok - it's just before Christmas and Jenny, a new mother, has what she thinks is a bad dream, that she's outside and she witnesses a girl's murder. Next day though, the news announces that a teenage girl has been found murdered in the local lake, exactly as in Jenny's dream. As she and her husband live near the scene, and he reported seeing a strange car, the police interview Jenny and her husband Will, but the lead detective, Maarten Jansen, thinks she's not telling all she knows. But her "visions"/dreams continue, and then another, younger, girl also goes missing - while the prime suspect for the murder is recovering in hospital from a beating at the hands of the victim's family. So both the police and Jenny are faced with a race against time to find and hopefully save the new victim, Becky, who is also a friend of one of Maarten's daughters. Jenny's strange visions continue, she seems to be sleepwalking, and she's also haunted by something from her past. Overall I enjoyed this book, it was an easy read, but I thought it was rather flawed - I found Jenny irritating after a while ,especially her constant holding back from the police, although, not surprisingly given her "visions", further developments lead to her being treated as a possible suspect, but there's not enough evidence to charge her. It wasn't hard to guess what was haunting her, and I also guessed the murderer's identity about halfway through, and then the author did that annoying thing of having the heroine go off on her own, in the dark, to meet the killer! I would still read her next book though, and the snowy setting of St Albans just before Christmas was well evoked. 7/10

The Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor - Alex Pengelly and her brother Johnnie are stunned when their father, David has a severe stroke and they're summoned back to the family home in Cornwall by his second wife, the unpopular and cold Sally, whom he married following the death of their mother Julia, in a mysterious drowning accident. As David lies seriously ill, the now grown children reflect on their lives - forced out of their beloved Cornish home, they both hope they can finally at least be free of Sally and her obnoxious son Mundo, who made their lives a misery during their childhood. Then David passes away and after his will is read, Mundo threatens to fight his half siblings every step of the way. Desperate to find out what really happened to their mother all those years ago, Alex contacts some long lost relatives to find out the truth. The story weaves between Julia's early life, as a student, would be actress and then her lost years until she met David and found, for a time at least, some form of happiness until her old troubles re-surface, and the present day, as Alex struggles to come to terms with her divorce, and setting up her flower decorating business, whilst coping with her grief for her father, and the ghosts from her family's past. this was an Ok read, I thought there was too much of Julia's early life and not enough of the present day issues, which meant that I felt the last part of the book felt rather rushed and a bit too neat. 7/10

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