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Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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Borderlands" by L J Ross - this is book 14 in the DCI Ryan series, and the story is set in Newcastle and right up near and sometimes over the border with Scotland. A young woman is shot dead during a live firing exercise at an Army range near the border, at first it's thought to be an accident but when ballistics show that the bullet didn't come from a soldier's weapon, Ryan and his team have to find out why the woman was on the range in the early hours of a summer morning, and how did she get there in the first place? Then another death deepens the mystery further. Meanwhile, in the city a former soldier is now living in the streets, suffering from PTSD with only a stray dog for company. And the police have their hands full with a series of hate attacks on ethnic minority religions in the city. How these are all connected does eventually become clear, and there's an exciting, if slightly unlikely, final chase across the moorland, in a storm of course! Another snappy, enjoyable instalment in the series, although there is one loose end left dangling. 8/10

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The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson - after a long wait, this is the 4th book in the Thomas Hawkins series, and it takes on a darker tone as Thomas and Kitty find themselves caught up in a very personal battle for their own future. It takes a while to get going, and for a while I did wonder when the story would take off, but once it did I was gripped. The book is divided into several sections, and things really start to happen when we get the part featuring Jeremiah, who grows up on the island of Antigua as the child of a family of slaves on a plantation. At first life is inevitably hard, but the horror really starts when the plantation owner comes back from England with a new wife. From here we gradually find out how Jeremiah's story, and his predicament, ties in with the danger faced by Tom and Kitty, for they find they have a common enemy who seems to be undefeatable. Other characters come and go, the Fleets are back and there are several exciting chases, and I found the book gripping, whilst still retaining it's trademark humour. But it looks like Thomas finally grows up in this book! 8/10

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The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths - this is the latest in the Ruth Galloway series, and now Ruth is firmly established back in Norfolk, and has been promoted to Head of Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk. Daughter Kate is doing well back at her old school, and life seems fairly settled. Until..... what looks like a murder/suicide takes place at a remote farm, and the body of a young man is found on a beach, which also turns out to be murder. Both his death and that of the couple at the farm lead back to the Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists who hunt at night, as it's quieter. Then a research facility in Cambridge comes into focus, as the man involved in the murder/suicide incident was in charge of a research programme there, and it looks like everything is connected, somehow. Throw in a mysterious black dog seen around the farm, and Ruth's new lecturer, who is at best shifty despite managing to be vulnerable at the same time, may also have something to hide. DCI Nelson charges around as usual, scoffing at the local legend of the black dog, even when everything seems to point back to Black Dog Farm, and it all builds to an exciting climax with a few chapters ending on a cliffhanger. Another enjoyable read, with it's usual blend of humour and slight cynicism! 8/10

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The Long Call" by Ann Cleeves - this is the first in a new series by the author of the "Shetland" and "Vera" novels, and this time she heads to the south of the Uk, to Devon, where her new detective, Matthew Venn, finds himself an outcast as he attends the funeral of his father; however he watches the ceremony from a distance, feeling unable to join in, as he left his parents' religious sect years ago, when he found he didn't agree with their principles, especially as a gay man. He's now happily married to his husband, Jonathan, who runs a local centre for people with learning difficulties, as well as the community in general, and when a volunteer from the centre is found murdered on a local beach, both men have a conflict of interest. The case becomes even more serious when a Down's syndrome woman, who also attended the centre, goes missing. Worryingly the incidents seem to link back to the charismatic leader of his parents' religious sect, and Matthew finds himself in a very awkward position. This was another solid crime novel from Ann Cleeves, and is a good introduction to a new character and his team, as well as his wider community. The TV adaptation starts next week, meaning that Cleeves is in the enviable position of having 3 book series adapted for TV, with the new series of Shetland just started too, although that's no longer based on her books. 7.5/10

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"The Survivors" by Jane Harper - the latest novel from Jane Harper takes us to Tasmania, and it follows a similar structure to her first hit novel, The Dry, ie a young man, Kieran, returns to the small town where he grew up, with his girlfriend and baby daughter (who is quite a little character in her own right!) to help his mother move his father, who has dementia, into a care facility, and to move home herself. When a waitress who's been employed for the summer at the local diner is found murdered on the beach, old wounds resurface - of a terrible storm 12 years previously, which resulted in the death of 2 local men, including Kieran's own brother - many people still hold Kieran responsible for what happened that night; on the same night, a teenage girl disappeared, and the only trace of her was her rucksack which washed up on the beach a few days after the storm. Suspicion falls on the whole town, and Kieran finds himself wondering who he can trust, especially when even more long held secrets come to light. I enjoyed this, it was a fast easy read, perhaps not quite as involving as The Dry (or maybe its just that this format is becoming a bit too commonplace now) but a good read anyway, and a great setting too. 8/10

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I didn't know Ann Cleeves had a new series out, The Long Call sounds interesting, great review :).

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I read The Long Call last year and found it distinctly underwhelming, it was a great relief to get my hands on The Darkest Evening, the ninth Vera book and find that she's absolutely back to form.

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I was the opposite, I found The Darkest Evening took a long time to really grip me, whereas The Long Call seemed to be a bit better paced.  The TV series is on this week, halfway through (on every night), it's well cast but a bit slow, they have made quite a few changes though the basic story is the same. Shetland is on tonight too so Ann Cleeves's characters are competing with each other on screen!

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The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Meriel - this is the first in a series featuring two detectives in late 1880s Edinburgh, I was introduced to it on another book forum and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who loves historical crime. It features two chalk and cheese detectives, the uptight, Englishman Ian Frey, who's been working on the Ripper cases, and "Nine-Nails" McGray, his Scottish counterpart. Frey isn't happy when he is pulled from the Ripper cases, in fact his boss is being "removed" from office and big changes are afoot. Then a late night visit from none other than the Prime Minister himself dispatches Frey to Edinburgh, to help out on another murder with the Ripper's hallmarks, except the victim in this case is an elderly violinist, found brutally murdered in his locked room. Frey hates Edinburgh on sight, the weather (it's not long before Christmas), the food , the accents, you name it he hates it, and he and his new colleague clash from the off, with the earthy McGray teasing Frey mercilessly about his southern ways and his immaculate suits, which inevitably keep getting ruined with depressing regularity. But they're baffled by the murder, and when another violinist disappears it looks like they may have an unearthly killer on their hands. McGray is a kind of Victorian XFiles style Fox Mulder, in that he's been given a secret department to look after, which investigates the supernatural, which he is fascinated by - more of this is revealed in the prologue, and also through the book, and presumably there's more to come as the series continues. I enjoyed this, it's a fast paced, well-written story but the pacing doesn't detract from character development, and I'm looking forward to reading more, and finding out more about McGray's story. There's some great banter between the two men (usually at Frey's expense) and some funny moments, although it does get a bit gruesome, and I know more about catgut now! I can see why this series (6 so far with another one out next year) is so popular with readers on the other book forum, yet seems to have remained under the radar (it would also probably appeal to readers of the Rivers of London series). 8/10

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6 hours ago, Madeleine said:

it would also probably appeal to readers of the Rivers of London series

Your review sums it up perfectly Madeleine and I agree with the above - as you've probably noticed I also love the Rivers of London series! I think Frey and McGray might appeal to those who prefer a more 'realistic' / less fantasy novel though, despite the fact that it does involve supernatural themes. 

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Yes they seem to have a logical explanation, eventually!

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9 minutes ago, Madeleine said:

Yes they seem to have a logical explanation, eventually!

Or do they... :lol:. I like the added element of mystery we get from the very different perspectives of Frey and McGray!

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I loved the 1st Frey & McFrey series, and I’m looking forward to the rest, especially I’m now on the last of the Rivers of London. 🙂

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The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell - I pretty much tore through this book, it's a very easy read, with the chapters alternating between the story of child spirit medium Pearl, and silhouette cutter Agnes, who narrates her sections. It's set in Bath, but it's not the Bath of Jane Austen, instead this is a sinister, grimy city, and is far removed from the genteel tourist image. Agnes is scraping a living cutting silhouettes, but when two of her clients are found dead under very suspicious circumstances, she begins to wonder if she is being targeted, for what reason she does not know. Her closest friend is her brother-in-law Simon, who was married to her sister Constance, who was killed in an Accident (as it's referred to in the book), which Agnes herself barely survived. When strange things start to happen, she reluctantly consults the White Sylph, a frail waif-like albino child who, under the guidance of her half0sister Myrtle, leads seances for wealthy clients, for it's the 1800s and the Victorians were of course fascinated by all this. But when she strikes a deal with Pearl to conduct a private séance, she begins to wonder what exactly she's unleashed. It's difficult to say more about this book without giving away spoilers, but there was one twist I didn't see coming, and another which I did start to suspect about halfway through. But unfortunately the ending let it down, it finished very abruptly, and I must admit I did feel slightly cheated, as it's very ambiguous, to the point of being vague. A shame as it has marred an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable read. 7/10

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On 05/11/2021 at 12:50 PM, Madeleine said:

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell -

This is high on my wish list! Funnily enough, I remember not really liking the ending of 'The Corset' by Laura Purcell either, although I loved everything else about the book. In hindsight, the concept of the ending sounds good, but I definitely remember feeling that it was a bit of a let down in comparison to the rest of the story at the time.

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Yes I felt the same about the ending of "The Corset", but in that case I felt it sort of worked, however "shape has a much more abrupt, ambiguous ending, the sort of ending where I felt like chucking the book across the room, and a bit annoyed  that I'd spent several hours of reading  time that I won't get back.....!  As I said in my review, I did enjoy most of the book, which is another reason why the ending felt such a letdown.  I've always found that's the problem with ghost stories, that the ending is a disappointment.  

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The Shrine by L J Ross - this is the 16th book in the series, and starts literally with a bang, as explosions rock the sacred site of Durham Cathedral, and when the smoke clears, it transpires that a priceless artefact - St Cuthbert's Cross - has been stolen from it's supposedly secure display case.  Ryan's pregnant wife is seriously injured in the chaos, and when a fellow officer is shot dead on her doorstep, his team find themselves dealing with two high profile cases.  At first there seems to be no connection between the two incidents, but as the bodies start to pile up it seems they may well be linked.  This was another enjoyable story, which looks like it's setting up another possible story arc, can't say any more for fear of spoilers! 7.5/10

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