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Hayley

Hayley's Reading 2019

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On ‎02‎/‎02‎/‎2019 at 6:58 PM, Hayley said:

I'm already four books behind with my reviews so just a couple of quick ones to catch up...

 

Lies Sleeping.jpg

 

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

5/5 - I loved it 

 

I just really love this series. It's exciting to discover the magic, rules and various creatures as Peter (the main character) does. In this book particularly it's also really interesting to read various true things about the history of London, you can tell that a lot of research went into the plot of this one. Just as in all the previous books there's real tension and emotion but there's also humour and that combination provides an atmosphere that's so easy to get lost in and just read for hours (it's a bit dangerous, really).  There are various factors (that I can't really mention because they'd all be spoilers) that make this book a really tantalising precursor to the next. The next one is definitely going to be interesting!

 

Interesting. 

 

For spoilery reasons (that I won't go into here) I felt this book was a drawing of a line under the recent story.  

 

Given the synopsis for the next one, I definitely think series is going to go off in another direction (for a while, at least!).

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16 hours ago, Raven said:

 

Interesting. 

 

For spoilery reasons (that I won't go into here) I felt this book was a drawing of a line under the recent story.  

 

Given the synopsis for the next one, I definitely think series is going to go off in another direction (for a while, at least!).

There are two spoilery things I can think of that happen in Lies Sleeping that definitely imply the story is going in a different direction now. Although I suspect it's not going to be too wildly different... 

 

4 hours ago, Athena said:

I love the cover of Folk!

Me too! I'm sure I remember seeing that it actually won an award (that might have been the hardback version though).

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I haven't been reading particularly fast recently but I do still have three reviews to catch up on! So, first...

 

The October Man.jpg

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

4/5 - I really liked it

 

As some of you may have noticed, I really love this series. They always have a brilliant combination of history, magic and genuinely compelling mystery. Again, as some of you know, the books are usually set in London, but this novella takes us to Germany for the first time. This is interesting in a lot of ways. It shows us how magic is organised in other countries, how much Germany knows about Britain's magic systems, and hints at how their histories intertwine. I suspect, from this novella, that we'll be seeing more from different countries in future books, which is great.

On the other hand, I just didn't like the characters in this book as much. Tobias is our first person narrator in this one, instead of Peter, and I didn't really feel like Tobias had a strong enough personality stand out. There were moments when I actually forgot it wasn't Peter Grant narrating. I'm honestly not entirely sure whether this was intentional. There are a few plot elements that strongly link Tobias' story to Peter's, which suggests that we're meant to notice how similar they are, but I think it actually just made Tobias seem a bit boring.

The mystery and magic were great, as always, with very strong links to Peter's first case in Rivers of London (although different enough that it wasn't predictable). I would definitely want to read more about Tobias and Germany's magical community, but I just didn't love this book quite as much as the others.  

 

 

Hunted Down.jpg

 

Hunted Down by Charles Dickens

3/5 - I liked it

 

I think I mentioned earlier in this thread that I got my first kindle recently? Well, this is the first book I read on my kindle! First, I have to start with a comment that's not really the books fault. The description of this book (and the title!) suggests that this is a collection of stories, and of snippets from Dickens' novels where we see detectives. The kindle version, even though it has the same title, is not that book. It's actually just the short story Hunted Down.

Hunted Down is a short story by Dickens that I never even knew existed until I saw this book on kindle. It's a very typical Victorian mystery and very obviously inspired by Wilkie Collins. It's not actually as good as Wilkie Collins' mysteries though, which is why, I assume, this story isn't very famous. It's not a bad story. It's very short, has a really interesting narrator and use of narrative voice and I did enjoy it. It's just not very special, really. It doesn't do anything that Wilkie Collins and, later, Arthur Conan Doyle, didn't do better. Interesting if you already have an interest in Dickens, or in Victorian detective stories, but probably not really worth reading for the plot alone.

 

Infallible Justice.jpg

Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso

4.5/5 - I really, really liked it

I saw this book after following a post about an indie publisher (Louise Walters Books) on twitter. Then the publisher was having a sale and all the books were signed, so I got Fallible Justice and the sequel to it.

It's essentially a sort of urban fantasy crime novel. Think Dresden Files and Neverwhere but with a good dose of folklore based nature magic. The novel is set in a London where magical and non-magical people live side by side, but not very comfortably. The magical people tend to stay in the area known as Old London, and they are governed by a law system that is meant to be infallible. Their judges, the Heralds, are supernatural beings who can tell if a person is guilty. This strict justice system keeps the uneasy peace with the non-magical community. Yannia Wilde, our main character (and also narrator) is a private investigator and, when she's asked to investigate a murder for which a man has already been judged guilty, she has to work out how their infallible justice system could have possibly gone wrong. 

This is a very good mystery, nicely paced, with a host of very memorable characters. The book is divided into days, from Sunday to Friday, and that's something I really liked. I know it's not unusual for a book to be divided into sections, but having the days like that gave a sense of urgency to time limit Yannia has to work out the mystery before the wrong man is killed for a crime he didn't commit. The most impressive thing about this book though is the complexity of the world and its magic. Discovering the different types of magical people is part of the fun, so I won't give anything away, but I will say it's very rich and diverse. There's definitely a lot more to explore in subsequent novels and I'm very interested to discover more. Despite the obvious complexity though, it never becomes confusing. This magical divided London feels like it could be a real place, full of extraordinary people living fairly ordinary lives.

Again, I stopped just short of five stars because there are books I loved a tiny bit more this year, but this was absolutely my kind of book and a great start to the series. I'm glad I got the second one! 

 

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Great reviews! I hadn't heard of Hunted Down. I like the cover of Fallible Justice!

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9 hours ago, Athena said:

Great reviews! I hadn't heard of Hunted Down. I like the cover of Fallible Justice!

Me too! I got a postcard of it too, because I ordered directly from the publisher (I also got a mini story and all the books are signed!).

 

I just realised that I actually had four reviews to catch up on. I completely skipped Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling. I'll get round to that soon!  

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On 7/21/2019 at 11:09 PM, Hayley said:

I haven't been reading particularly fast recently but I do still have three reviews to catch up on! So, first...

 

The October Man.jpg

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

4/5 - I really liked it

 

As some of you may have noticed, I really love this series. They always have a brilliant combination of history, magic and genuinely compelling mystery. Again, as some of you know, the books are usually set in London, but this novella takes us to Germany for the first time. This is interesting in a lot of ways. It shows us how magic is organised in other countries, how much Germany knows about Britain's magic systems, and hints at how their histories intertwine. I suspect, from this novella, that we'll be seeing more from different countries in future books, which is great.

On the other hand, I just didn't like the characters in this book as much. Tobias is our first person narrator in this one, instead of Peter, and I didn't really feel like Tobias had a strong enough personality stand out. There were moments when I actually forgot it wasn't Peter Grant narrating. I'm honestly not entirely sure whether this was intentional. There are a few plot elements that strongly link Tobias' story to Peter's, which suggests that we're meant to notice how similar they are, but I think it actually just made Tobias seem a bit boring.

The mystery and magic were great, as always, with very strong links to Peter's first case in Rivers of London (although different enough that it wasn't predictable). I would definitely want to read more about Tobias and Germany's magical community, but I just didn't love this book quite as much as the others.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've seen this book being mentioned somewhere else and I thought it looked interesting. Can you read each book as a standalone or do I have to start from the beginning?

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You could read them alone and they would make sense, but I think you would miss out if you didn’t start from the beginning, since some of the plots are caused by earlier events (if that makes sense without spoilers!). So, if you start with the third book, for example, you’d reveal a huge big spoiler about something that happens in the first book. You could definitely read October Man without the others though, since it follows a completely different person to the main series. You just wouldn’t understand some of the references, but they’re not in any way important to the story. 

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Yes as Will says you do need to read the series in order, as the story arc does develop during the books.  I've only read one novella so far - The Furthest Station - which could probably be read as a stand alone book.

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I have a few reviews to catch up on (again) so I'll do a couple at a time!

 

Firstly, one that I've been putting off for a while:

Witch Born.jpg

Witchborn by Nicolas Bowling

3/5 - I liked it

 

I'm a little bit torn about this book. The concept at the beginning is great. After Alyce's mother is executed for witchcraft, she's locked up in Bedlam asylum, accused of being mad. All Alyce has from her mother is a note, which was given to her with the names of a place and a man, neither of which she recognises. Much of the story follows Alyce's attempt to solve the mystery and escape from the mysterious people pursuing her. All of this is genuinely interesting and the book is generally well written. 

On the other hand... as the book progresses, more and more real characters from history are introduced and with this I felt that it got increasingly unbelievable. I was expecting there to be a fantasy crossover, because of the witchcraft, but things got to a point that they just felt a little bit silly. It's hard to explain what I mean fully without spoilers but some of the twists in the later part of the book, rather than being shocking, just made me feel like '...really?' 

Overall this is a great concept (and really beautiful cover!) but, in my opinion, would have benefitted from keeping things a little bit simpler.

 

Burke's Last Witness.jpg

Burke's Last Witness by CJ Dunford

4/5 - I really liked it

 

(Note: I read this book on my kindle, the cover art is from Goodreads)

 I came across this novella randomly while browsing a sale from indie crime publishers Fahrenheit Press and I'm really glad I gave it a chance. It takes the infamous story of Burke and Hare and looks at it from a completely different angle, because at the beginning of this book Burke and Hare are already in prison.

Rather than focusing on the two murderers, we follow the police sergeant who's in charge of them (Captain Rose). Rose is a man who believes strongly in the justice system and the simple morality of right and wrong. The brutal actions of Burke and Hare confuse him, and he begins to visit both prisoners in an attempt to unravel and understand their motives. Tragic events in Rose's own family, however, combined with the contradictory accounts of the charismatic Burke and his accomplice Hare, only cause Rose to question the simplicity of his beliefs.

There's so much going on in this short space. Dunford manages to give us a cast of genuinely believable characters as well as creating a believable and immersive snapshot of Victorian working-class Edinburgh. Deeply psychological and compelling to the last page, this is definitely worth a read. 

 

 

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First AMong Sequels.jpg

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

4.5/5

I just love all of these books and I loved this for the same reason as the others. Fforde has a ridiculously fantastic imagination, combined with a brilliantly sharp and witty writing style. Throw in the fact that this series is written for book lovers and what is there not to love?

I knocked off half a star purely because this wasn't my favourite book in the series. For the first time we jump forward in time a lot (by fourteen years, if I remember correctly) and that felt a little bit weird when I started reading, because the main character has developed a lot without us seeing it. The time gap was necessary to the plot though and in the end I felt like it was quite nice to see how Thursdays life is going over a decade later.  

 

Now I'm only a couple of reviews behind! I've read 22 books so far this year, so I have a long way to go if I'm finally going to meet my 50 target for the year, but you never know!

 

 

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Well done on being only a couple of reviews behind! I have yet to read anything by Jasper Fforde, though I have a couple of his books on my TBR. Glad you're liking this series a lot :).

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Wow  Hayley you have got some interesting books under your belt this year, I want to read most of them!

I have a question about  Folk , would you say the style is similar to Angela Carter?

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40 minutes ago, vodkafan said:

Wow  Hayley you have got some interesting books under your belt this year, I want to read most of them!

I have a question about  Folk , would you say the style is similar to Angela Carter?

I have read some really good ones this year! That is a very good question about Folk... it's similar in the sense that that it's quite a dark, psychological, take on a traditional form of story telling (arguably closer to the original I suppose!) On the other hand, Angela Carter (and I'm really just thinking about The Bloody Chamber because that's the book I've read by Carter) is always giving us recognisable fairy tales. We know where we are in all of her stories, and it's always in a magical fairy tale, even when that fairy tale is very dark. On the other hand, every story in Folk is set on the same remote island, and it's a setting that feels like a very real and possible past. Especially when the different stories and generations start to overlap. The magic that exists there is quite subtle and tied to the land (or sea, or air) in some way, like traditions have just become a little bit more real. I suppose if you put folk tale and fairytale at their most extreme opposites, that would be the real difference in the two styles!     

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if you were to recommend one book to me that you have read this year, which one would it be? Don't mean to put you on the spot. :)

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18 hours ago, muggle not said:

if you were to recommend one book to me that you have read this year, which one would it be? Don't mean to put you on the spot. :)

Oooh, good question! It would probably be one I haven’t reviewed yet actually - Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. As well as just being a really good story with a great mystery to be unravelled, it is so beautifully written. I will get round to writing a proper review for it soon, but I’d definitely recommend it. 

Melmoth would be quite a close second, but that’s a lot darker and I did feel a bit emotionally traumatised after I read it!

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On 10/14/2019 at 12:44 PM, Hayley said:

Oooh, good question! It would probably be one I haven’t reviewed yet actually - Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. As well as just being a really good story with a great mystery to be unravelled, it is so beautifully written. I will get round to writing a proper review for it soon, but I’d definitely recommend it. 

Melmoth would be quite a close second, but that’s a lot darker and I did feel a bit emotionally traumatised after I read it!

Thanks, my hold list at the library is at its limit. Once a spot comes available I will put Once Upon a River on it.

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On 15/10/2019 at 7:39 PM, muggle not said:

 

Thanks, my hold list at the library is at its limit. Once a spot comes available I will put Once Upon a River on it.

:) I hope you'll like it, I'm pretty sure you will. 

 

I am finally getting round to updating my reviews. I'll keep them short because there's a few...

 

Earthsea.jpg

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

5/5 - I loved it

 

I have the first four Earthsea books in one volume (the one pictured), but I didn't read the first two books at the same time, and I haven't read the second two yet, so I'm going to review them separately.

I always see Earthsea on lists related to Harry Potter, so I'd like to start by confirming that it is absolutely nothing like Harry Potter. The comparison seems to stem from the fact that there is, at one point in this first book, a school of magic, but it's really just a place that the main character passes through on his journey, definitely not the main setting. Which brings me to what this book is. A journey. In this book we follow Ged from his childhood, and his first experience of magic on the island where he was born, through Earthsea as he follows his ambitions and tries to repair his past mistakes. The world Le Guin created is so richly detailed and exciting, moving through it really feels like an adventure. It's a book to get lost in, definitely one of the best fantasy books I've read.

 

The Tombs of Atuan

5/5 - I loved it

 

This second book starts off with a very different, noticeably darker, tone to the first. Rather than Ged, we find ourselves following the fate of Tenar, a very young child who is taken away from her family, having been selected to be the High Priestess at the Tombs of Atuan. There's a lot to this one that I don't want to give away, but, like the first book, it is also essentially a journey, as Tenar tries to work out who she is (and whether she is a leader or a prisoner) in this very rigid, cult-like setting. One of my favourite things about this second book is the way that elements of the first book are woven in, in a way that makes the world of Earthsea feel like a very vibrant and interconnected place.

 

 

once upon a river.jpg

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

5/5 - I loved it

 

This is such a beautiful book, inside and out. It gives the impression of having been very carefully crafted. Every word is there for a reason. And that's particularly fitting because one of the main themes of this book is storytelling. Of all the pubs along the banks of the Thames, The Swan at Radcot is where you go for storytelling. Patrons tell and re-tell stories, trying out different words to see how they sound and different endings to see how they work. This feature makes you very aware of the way the story is being told to you as a reader, and the third person omniscient narrator does make it feel like you're being told a story in this place where stories are crafted, and where the story of a girl washed up on the river bank begins. The cast of characters, who are drawn into the story at various points (in a way that implies tributaries joining the main river, which I'm certain is intentional), are all brilliant and believable characters in their own right. There are so many interesting life stories drawn together by the mystery of this child who washes up on the shore of the Thames. The different stories to discover and smaller mysteries to be unravelled keep the pace of the story up very nicely. By the end I didn't want to put it down. 

I definitely recommend it to anyone.

 

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I love the first 4 Earthsea books! I'm glad you liked the first 2 a lot :)! I've heard great things of Once Upon A River, glad you enjoyed it :).

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On 14/10/2019 at 5:44 PM, Hayley said:

Melmoth would be quite a close second, but that’s a lot darker and I did feel a bit emotionally traumatised after I read it!

 

Her previous novel, The Essex Serpent, was an absolute stonker, so am looking forward to this (although she appears to go for a different style/approach for each of her novels so far).

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On 18/10/2019 at 6:48 AM, Athena said:

I love the first 4 Earthsea books! I'm glad you liked the first 2 a lot :)! I've heard great things of Once Upon A River, glad you enjoyed it :).

Thanks :) I'm glad you liked the third and fourth Earthsea books too, I'm looking forward to reading them!

 

17 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

Her previous novel, The Essex Serpent, was an absolute stonker, so am looking forward to this (although she appears to go for a different style/approach for each of her novels so far).

I'm similarly looking forward to The Essex Serpent! Melmoth was brilliant. The word poignant gets thrown around a lot in book reviews, but I think that's genuinely a good description of Melmoth. It seems very fitting for modern times, for a lot of reasons. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it, when you do read it.

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Ok, we're 11 days into 2020 and I need to finish my 2019 reviews so I can finally start my new thread!

 

So, since Once Upon a River, I have read...

Echo Murder.jpg

 

Echo Murder by Laura Laakso

4.5/5 - I really enjoyed it

 

The second book in the Wilde Investigations series and, like the first, it brings a great variety of interesting characters, a believable magical world and a clever, totally unique, murder mystery. When police start to investigate the fatal stabbing of Tim Wedgebury, they're surprised to find him alive and well. Assuming at first that it was some sort of magical prank, they're even more surprised when he has his second "fatal" accident, and then a third...

I  was completely stumped by this mystery, which was very cleverly delivered in a way that lets us further explore the way Old London and its magical community works. In this book we also get to see Yannia's (the main character's) home, the Wild Folk conclave. This is a huge contrast to the New and Old London settings, as the Wild Folk live very secluded, nature-based lives. The author writes beautifully from Yannia's perspective about the Wild Folk's connection with nature, but there's something unsettlingly cult-like about the conclave and I'm very interested to find out how Yannia's going to connect her two very different lives in future books.

The third book isn't out yet though, so I'll just have to wait :lol:

 

 

The Woman in Black.jpg

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

3.5/5 - I enjoyed it

 

I don't read much horror but, as this is a book people are always talking about, and I wanted something spooky for October, I thought I'd give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised! I think I (unfairly) assume that all horror is going to be full of stupid clichés (probably based on every horror film I've ever watched) but this was set up very nicely, had great atmosphere and simultaneously made you feel like there was a satisfying conclusion without getting rid of the threat. I can't say I've suddenly become a horror fan, but I enjoyed reading this and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a good spooky book.

 

Tales of Unease.jpg

Tales of Unease by Arthur Conan Doyle

4.5/5 - I really enjoyed it

 

I think it's fair to say that none of the stories in this collection are going to make you feel uneasy, there's just something too comforting about the way Arthur Conan Doyle tells a story. There's a great variety of really unique and well crafted stories here though, with everything from science fiction (The Horror of the Heights and The Terror of the Blue John Gap) Mummies (The Ring of Thoth and Lot No.249) and even a unicorn (Playing With Fire). It's a collection that gives you that 'I can't wait to find out what the next one will be' feeling. So you might not be scared, but you'll definitely be impressed.

 

Earthsea.jpg

The Farthest Shore (Third book in the Earthsea Cycle) 

4.5/5 - I really enjoyed it

 

I just love this series and its beautiful, detailed, fantasy world. (I've just realised, while writing this, that it's going to be really hard to review anything about the story without spoilers for the other two books, so this is going to be vague...). Once again Le Guin makes you feel like you're going on a real adventure, discovering new islands and communities and new things about magic. There are also some very poignant comments about life and death in this one, as well as about fear, human nature and the cycle of life. Those topics don't seem overwhelming though, as huge as they are, Le Guin has a way of presenting really difficult subjects in a simple and gentle way, without ever losing that feeling of adventure that makes all three books so special. 

Definitely hugely recommend this series to all fantasy fans. They're a rare combination of being very detailed and also extremely easy to read.

 

The Book Collector.jpg

The Book Collector by Alice Thompson

4/5 - I really liked it

 

I really like things based on fairy tales, so when I read the synopsis of this book, which includes things like a book collector, a very creepy book of fairy tales, and insanity, I thought I'd probably like it. When I first started reading it I started to think 'Oh, this isn't really what I thought it would be, it's not that creepy, and it's more about a relationship than it is about books.' BUT THEN. Violet, the main character, starts to become very suspicious about a particular book her husband keeps locked away in his safe. Why won't he let her read it? And why has he started going for walks in the middle of the night? When Violet's son is born, she starts to have strange visions, and her husband decides she should spend some time in the local asylum, to make her better. While there's no doubt that Violet really was experiencing hallucinations, the line between what's real and what's in Violet's imagination becomes increasingly blurred. When she returns home and discovers that women have been going missing from the asylum, the confusion only deepens.

This is a book that builds in intensity until the last shocking scene. I felt slightly stunned after I finished it (which I did in one sitting). Not only do I recommend, I would also really like someone else to read this so we can talk about what on earth happened :lol:.

 

Who Killed Zebedee.jpg 

 

Who Killed Zebedee? by Wilkie Collins

4/5

 

There are actually two stories in this book, 'Who Killed Zebedee?' and 'John Jago's Ghost'. The latter is actually a lot longer, more than double the length, so I'm not sure why 'Who Killed Zebedee?' is the title but anyway...

I've loved everything I've ever read by Wilkie Collins. He tells an excellent mystery and these are no exception. In the first, a woman believes she murdered her husband in her sleep, but she has no idea where the knife that killed him (mysteriously inscribed with an unfinished note) came from. In the second, two men have been convicted of murder with overwhelming evidence, but one simple secret told on a late night walk might just save them from hanging.

These aren't quite as good as Collins' full novels, hence the 4.5 stars, but they're still really good quick reads.

 

 

Christmas Railway Mystery.jpg

A Christmas Railway Mystery by Edward Marston

3/5 - I enjoyed it

 

I had been resisting buying a new Christmas-themed book until I saw this on offer in The Works (I wasn't actually looking for books, I was looking for pens, I promise...). I've read a couple of the Railway Detective books before and they were pretty good, so I knew what to expect with this one. They aren't particularly amazing books. The characters are a little bit cliched and the plots aren't hugely memorable (I can't, for example, remember who the murderer was now, and I only read it a few weeks ago), but they do give you a good traditional murder mystery still and I did enjoy reading it.

(Extra note: I just had a really good think about the end of the book and remembered who the murderer was... and honestly it would have been more exciting if it had been one of the other suspects).

 

 

Ok that's all my 2019 reviews done! Now to make my 2020 thread. Bye 2019 books! 

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I didn't guess the murdered in the Railway Mystery, I thought it was either

Spoiler

the victim's friend, or the vicar! 

Who did you think it would be?

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