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Madeleine

Madeleine's Books Read 2022

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A Cotswold Christmas Mystery by Rebecca Tope - I haven't read a book in this long-running series for a while, and things have moved on quite a bit for house-sitter Thea, who is now married to Drew Slocombe, a local undertaker who she presumably met through her 2nd job (her first is house-sitting) as an unofficial detective!  No house-sitting in this book, instead Thea, Drew and his 2 children from his first marriage (he's a widower) are getting ready for Christmas and awaiting the arrival of Thea's daughter from her first marriage.  Trouble breaks out when a local woman, who is a friend of Thea's, goes missing, and when the body of the local landlord, on whose land the woman and her family were tenants, is found dead in very suspicious circumstances, things don't look too good for Thea's friend.  So Thea and her stepdaughter, 10 year old Stephanie, decide to try to find out what is going on.  Not surprisingly this ruffles a few feathers, not least from the dead man's wife and her daughters from her first marriage.  It's an easy enough read, but  I didn't find the way it was told primarily through the eyes of a child very convincing, this child was more like 10 years old going on about 50!  Other things didn't make sense either, mainly that surely if the dead man had been electrocuted, wouldn't there have been marks on his body?  So a comfort read for Christmas, but nothing particularly special. 6/10

 

 

The Dead of winter by Nicola Upson - this is the 9th book in the Josephine Tey detective series, I've read the first one but not the others, however this works perfectly well as a stand alone novel. it's set at Christmas 1938, war clouds are already looming but it's business as usual for Hilaria St Aubyn, the chatelaine of St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, who organises a charity Christmas house party to raise money for child refugees from mainland Europe. One of the invitees is none other than Marlene Dietrich, and others include Josephine Tey and her partner Marta, and her friend, Det inspector Archie Penrose. One murder occurs before the guests have even arrived, we know who the culprit is, but another brutal murder takes place on Christmas Day, and the horror struck guests and villagers, cut off by a blizzard, have to somehow keep safe whilst Penrose carries out what investigations he can. This was a short, enjoyable read, well-written with believable characters, although the denoument felt a little rushed. 7.5/10
Edited by Madeleine

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"The Sanatorium" by Sarah Pearse - Elin and her boyfriend, Will, are in Switzerland for her brother's engagement party at his exclusive new resort hotel, which has been converted from the sanatorium of the title (I wouldn't want to stay there!) She has misgivings as the siblings are pretty much estranged, and neither has recovered from their other brother's death when they were children - Elin still has unsolved questions, and her career as a detective is on hold as she recovers from almost being killed by a suspect, as well as their mother's recent death - her brother Isaac never even attended the funeral. So it would be fair to say that relations are strained, not helped by a storm closing in. There are more problems when a hotel cleaner is found dead, and then Isaac's fiancee goes missing. An avalanche then totally seals off the hotel, and Elin, apart from being in phone contact with the local police, is pretty much on her own as the bodies start to pile up. This is another book in the "chalet noir" genre, basically a variation on the country house murder genre. Elin's family history, and the hotel's creepy history, add extra frissons, and although I found it an easy, fast-paced read, the ending felt rather rushed and incomplete. However it looks like there'll be more adventures (and dangers!) for Elin, as this looks to be the first in a series. 7.5/10

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On 14/02/2022 at 2:30 PM, Madeleine said:

the ending felt rather rushed and incomplete.

I was very close to buying this book in the January sales, but I saw some bad reviews about the ending that put me off. At 7.5/10 though I'm guessing it didn't ruin the book for you? 

 

On 14/02/2022 at 2:30 PM, Madeleine said:

However it looks like there'll be more adventures (and dangers!) for Elin, as this looks to be the first in a series.

Do you think you'd read the next one?

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No it didn't ruin the book, and I would read the next one, which is previewed at the end of the book, and which seems to carry on from this one, so maybe there is more to this story?

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Glad you enjoyed it!  I thought the ending felt a bit rushed though.

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4 minutes ago, Madeleine said:

Glad you enjoyed it!  I thought the ending felt a bit rushed though.

 

I was alright with that, what bothered me was when Axel - just appeared out of nowhere and then more or less disappeared again - turned up to report what turned out to be Adele in the pool. Him and Cecile came outside with Elin etc at the time but were curiously not mentioned until after Adele had been pulled out of the pool. I thought that was a bit clumsy. Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Looking forward to the next one, coming Spring 2022.  

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"The Burial Circle" by Kate Ellis - the current Wesley Peterson novel goes a bit creepy on us when a psychic who is taking part in a themed weekend at a local hotel is murdered, and no he didn't see it coming! Though guests at the weekend did think seemed genuinely spooked during one sitting, and seemed terrified. When his body is discovered draped over the mill wheel at the tourist attraction of a restored wool mill, it's at first thought to be an accidental death, then the coroner discovers a stab wound.... Meanwhile things are turning personal for Wesley's 2nd in command, Rachel, whose new marriage isn't too happy, and she has further worries when a storm blows over a tree on her parents' farm, to reveal the body of a teenager who'd gone missing several years ago. Are the girl's death and the recent killing of the psychic somehow connected? As Wesley and his boss Gerry delve deeper, it does look like the answers lie in the past history of both victims. As usual, there's a historical sideline too, as Wesley's friend Neil, who's writing a book about the old mill, discovers a series of murders way back in the 1800s, when a doctor, newly arrived from London, discovered the local Burial Circle, an organisation set up to help the poorer give their loved ones a fitting burial, but also might mask a series of killings made to look like accidents, which seem to be mirrored by the events that are being investigated in the present day. This was another enjoyable mystery, with an exciting chase at the end, and which was intriguingly plotted. 7.5/10.

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"The Seal King Murders" by Alanna Knight - it's 1862 and Inspector Jeremy Faro returns to his birthplace of the Isle of Orkney, following his injury in an earlier case in Edinburgh (in "Murder in Paradise", must read that one!), and he intends to convalesce whilst staying with his mother, and hopefully re-connect with his first, brief teenage love, Inga. He's also there to try to find out what happened to a supposed valuable package of goods which was being carried by a local customs officer, destined for Edinburgh, but which disappeared after the customs officer fell whilst boarding the ship to take him to Edinburgh, and subsequently drowned in the rough sea. His body was recovered but the rumoured "treasures" have disappeared, so what is it a simple accident or part of a more sinister plan. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that his widow Thora was supposedly taken by the legendary Seal King, who takes a woman at Lammastide, keeps her for a year and a day, and then she returns in exactly the same clothes she was wearing when she disappeared. She has never spoken about her disappearance, which seems to time with her sister moving to the mainland. Then there is the mysterious brother of the local boatman, who is meant to be dying of consumption but seems to have a rather indulgent lifestyle, plus of course the local constabulary who aren't too happy at someone else on their patch. Then a local heiress goes missing at Lammastide, and Faro was one of the last people to speak to her, so he finds himself under suspicion, and when another local is attached, he also manages to be prime suspect. This was an entertaining story with some lovely selkie references, and seals do in fact play a prominent, and rather sweet, role in the story. Faro is a likeable character, and although the book was rather slow at first, I enjoyed once the story got going. 7.5/10

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"Runes of Destiny" by Christina Courtenay -this is the 2nd book in the author's Viking series but can be read as a stand alone, a couple of characters from the first book do appear briefly but it doesn't detract from the story. Linnea is recovering from a car accident which killed her best friend's parents and severely injured her friend - she feels guilty for surviving relatively unscathed and is helping out on a summer holiday archaeological dig in Sweden, when she finds a gorgeous bracelet. She accidentally pricks her finger on the pin, and finds herself transported, Outlander style, to the 9th century, where she finds herself being taken captive as a thrall ie a sort of hostage for sale, and she joins the Jarl and his half brothers as they set sail for Istanbul, where they intend to trade many items, such as furs and amber, and also their thralls, for sale to the highest bidder. The Jarl, Thure, is a unlikeable, boorish type who prefers the good things in life, ie drink, gambling and women, whilst his half-brother Hrafn, is kinder and does the real work of keeping their estate going. He is also in charge of the thralls and it's no surprise that he and Linnea find themselves increasingly attracted to each other. As she settles into life on the Viking settlement, and then on the perilous journey south, Linnea finds herself fascinated by Viking life, and also by her host. But Thure wants her for himself, and Linnea finds herself in danger not only from raiders, but also from the Jarl. Although there were no surprises as to how this turned out, it was an enjoyable bit of escapism, with an interesting glimpse into everyday Viking life. I would say it's more of a time travel novel rather than timeslip, as Linnea stays pretty much in the Viking zone for most of the book. 7/10

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Cuthbert's Way by L J Ross - this is the latest in the DCI Ryan series, and carries straight on from the previous book, The Shrine. The artefact recovered at the end of that book was not the correct item, however the police want to keep this secret as several people, including one of their own, have died trying to keep this fact from the perpetrators. However it soon becomes obvious that the deception is no longer a secret, and Ryan, as head of the investigation, and now a new father, finds himself and his family in danger. It seems that someone is obsessed with St Cuthbert and his mythology (although he really existed a cult has grown up around his story) and will stop at nothing to get all the relics. So Ryan finds himself on a personal mission, to rescue those closest to him and keep everyone else safe. this book was much longer than the previous books in the series, and I felt it was better for it - more character and story development, rather than the slightly rushed feel I always get from the others. One of the best books in the series, although you do need to read the previous book first. 8/10

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A Fever in the Blood by Oscar de Muriel - this is the 2nd in the series set in late Victorian Edinburgh, and it's New Year 1889, but no celebrations for our crime fighting duo when they're told that a resident of the same asylum where McGrey's sister is a long term patient has gone missing, and is the prime suspenct in the death of one of the nurses. McGrey is further drawn into the case when he learns that his sister, who has been mute since a terrible incident in their childhood, spoke to the man, who is none other than Joel Ardglass, who fans of the series will know has a personal connection to McGrey. A chain of events is set in motion which sees the duo heading over the border into England, and to the notorious Lancashire town of Pendle, which is still a draw for witches. there are so many plot twists that I felt a bit dizzy, and this is a fast paced romp across the Lancashire moors in pursuit of a gang of witches, both good and bad, who are involved in smuggling and murder. As the body count rises, it looks like Frey and McGrey will be next, especially as McGrey's obsession with his sister, and what made her speak, takes both him and Frey into greater danger. Great entertainment, with some genuine suspense as well as flashes of humour. 8/10

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"The Lamplighters" by Emma Stonex - this book is a kind of riff on the famous lighthouse mystery which occurred in the Hebrides around the turn of the last century - the 3 keepers vanished without trace, and to this day no one knows what happened to them. This book is set more recently, alternating between 1972 - when the Vanishing, as it's referred to, took place - and 1992, which is the present day in the book, and the lighthouse is off the Cornish coast. We get the story in two parts - the build up to the Vanishing, as the keepers pass the time together just before Christmas 1972 - and then we get an insight into their back stories, as well as that of their wives/girlfriends, and also the investigation, plus further revelations when an author decides to write an account of the Vanishing, and attempts to interview the women. One ignores him, as she has done to the other women when they've met for anniversaries of the Vanishing, one isn't sure, but the Principal Keeper's wife, Helen, is keen to talk. So we gradually find out what really happened. Although the book is quite well-written and fast paced, I can't say I really enjoyed it - I didn't find the characters particularly likeable, or convincing, and there are a couple of strange loose ends too, which I wonder if the author left to deliberately keep up the air of mystery? Obviously I can't say too much for fear of spoilers, but I think my overall verdict would be disappointing. The monotony of the routine on the light was evoked very well, especially as the keepers could see the mainland and the lights of their own homes on the mainland, as was the atmosphere and descriptions of the sea. The ghost story element felt a bit contrived though, and just didn't really feel that convincing. 6/10

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