The Three Dahlias #BookReview

One thing that I love about visiting the library is just spotting books on the shelves and picking them at random. I spotted The Three Dahlias on Friday and was attracted by the cover and then intrigued by the blurb. It seemed like the ideal book for a lazy Saturday evening and I’m very glad that I picked it up.

Dahlia Lively is a fictional detective who has featured in a long running series of books and the three Dahlias are the three actresses who have played her on screen. We have Rosalind who played her in two films on the big screen, Caro who played her in a long running TV series that covered all the books (think David Suchet and Poirot) and then we have Posy, a young ex-child star who has come out of rehab and is hoping that the new Dahlia film will kick start her adult acting career.

All three women find themselves at Aldermere, the stately home that was the home of Lettice, the author of the Dahlia books and where some of the books were set. They are there to attend the Dahlia festival, organised by the president of the Dahlia fan club. The producers of the new film are hoping to use the festival to promote the film and also get the family’s approval of the new script. As can be expected, there are tensions between the three women when they meet as the older two feel that they have rights to the character and Posy feels that she has something to prove.

The festival is underway but things are not running smoothly. A valuable item that belonged to the author and featured in the films is stolen and the three actresses discover that someone is trying to blackmail them. Then a murder occurs and the three women have to work together to solve the crime.

I really enjoyed this mystery. Dahlia, although fictional, is a real character who probably has more in common with Phrynne Fisher than Miss Marple and each chapter begins with a quotation from one of the books which gives us an idea of her personality. The three actresses who have played her are all very different but they complement each other and I enjoyed the way they gradually came to trust each other. I liked all of them but I think I was rooting most for Posy who was fighting for her career

The setting of Aldermere House is a very traditional English setting familiar to readers of Agatha Christie or viewers of Midsomer Murders and works perfectly as a setting for a murder mystery which has its roots in past events. The descriptions are detailed enabling the reader to get a clear picture and I especially liked the details about the China Room

I loved the idea of a fictional detective within a book and the way that the books were constantly being referenced made them feel as though they had actually been written. Having the three different women investigate the crime as if they actually were Dahlia gave the story an unusual twist. The mystery was cleverly plotted and I liked the resolution which I didn’t see coming at all. This is a great spin on a classic country house mystery and I would definitely recommend it.

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Cosy Crime – A trio of reviews

I love crime and mystery novels and have done ever since being brought up on the mystery and adventure stories of Enid Blyton as a child. I enjoy the whole range including authors such as M W Craven and Robert Bryndza but I also like a gentle cosy crime mystery sometimes. It’s nice to have a relaxing read after some of the grittier novels around. I seem to have a read quite a few lately so I thought I would do a post containing 3 shortish reviews of my recent reading.

All three books were provided to me as ARCs by Net Galley and the publishers but my opinions are entirely my own.

Death at the Auction by E C Bateman
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Set in the historic town of Stamford, this murder set in the antiques trade is a brilliantly plotted mystery. Felicia Grant rushes to Stamford to run her father’s auction one Saturday after he fell over the cat and broke his leg. The auction is proceeding normally until things are disrupted by her ex-husband suddenly appearing on the scene and the discovery of a dead body in a wardrobe. After that inauspicious start, life gets even more complicated for poor Felicia who finds that she is not only a suspect in the investigation but also that there seem to be attempts being made on her life.

It’s less of an amateur sleuth mystery than some cosy crime novels as the local police are definitely in charge including the almost sinister Inspector who has the extremely inappropriate name of Heavenly. However, despite threats to her safety, Felicia is unable to keep out of the investigation and she is the one to find the key to everything that has gone on. 

I really enjoyed this crime story. The antique trade is a great set up for a murder mystery with plenty of eccentric characters to add local colour.  The characters of Felicia and her son and ex-husband are interesting and I enjoyed the family dynamics between them. There is a fair amount of humour interspersed with the drama and plenty of red herrings to keep the reader on their toes. I love novels when I can visualise the setting and the town of Stamford is vividly described which was a real plus for me.

I can definitely see this series being one that I need to look out for.

Death at the Auction is published by One More Chapter on 24th November 2022

Waste of a Life by Simon Brett
⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love Simon Brett’s crime mysteries and this relatively new series is a great addition to his books. A Waste of a Life is the third in the Decluttering series but I think that you could easily read it as a stand alone.

Ellen’s job as a declutterer takes her into people’s houses and these people are often elderly or vulnerable so possibly easy victims. This time she goes and works at the house of Cedric who has become a recluse after the death of his wife. On one of her regular visits, she discovers him dead in bed. Ellen assumes that he has died of natural causes but the post mortem reveals traces of poison and the police become involved. Ellen is also working at the house of Mim, a retired school teacher who led a very active social life in the 1960’s. At first Mim and Cedric appear to have nothing in common but gradually a link appears between them.

I really enjoyed this mystery. There were a lot of twists and turns which kept me interested and I liked the host of secondary characters. This is a cosy crime novel but Simon Brett still keeps us in touch with reality. Mim increasingly suffers from dementia and there are several characters in the book with mental health problems including both of Ellen’s children. The book is set very firmly in the city of Chichester which is another thing that I love about it. I always enjoy it when I can visualise where characters are in a book.

Waste of a Life is published by Severn House on December 6th 2022

An Act of Foul Play by T E Kinsey
⭐⭐⭐

This is the ninth outing for Lady Emily Hardcastle and her maid Flo and the setting is now 1911. Lady Emily is at the theatre for a birthday treat with her maid and partner in crime solving Flo, when a murder occurs. As the curtain rises for the second act of a comedy, one of the actors is discovered on stage having been stabbed to death.

I have enjoyed the previous books in this series and this one felt like discovering old friends. The dialogue between Lady Hardcastle and Flo is still as sharp as ever and they are joined this time by Flo’s identical twin sister which adds to the fun.

The plot was an interesting one and I loved the theatrical theme. The usual characters were joined by the members of the theatrical company with lots of red herrings being scattered around as Emily and Flo try to discover who had a motive for the killing. As usual, a lot of time is spent on the details of their normal lives which I normally enjoy. However, I felt that this time, the murder mystery was almost secondary and there seemed to be little tension or impetus to find the identity of murderer.

It’s a fun read for lovers of this series but I don’t think that it is one of the author’s best.

An Act of Foul Play is published by Amazon Publishing on 29th November 2022

Do you enjoy cosy crime series or would you rather read the likes of M W Craven? Or maybe, like me, you enjoy both. Let me know 😃

The Man in the Queue #1929club

Twice a year, Karen and Simon  host an online book club where they choose a year and everyone comes together to review and discuss books published in that year. I only discovered it a year ago but I love the way that it gives you a focus for discovering books that you have never previously heard of as well as rediscovering old favourites. This week is dedicated to 1929 and what a year it was for publishing, especially for detective fiction.

One of my favourite historical crime series at the moment is the series written by Nicola Upson featuring the novelist and playwright Josephine Tey. Josephine Tey is best known for her novel A Daughter of Time but she wrote many other novels including one that was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. Nicola Upson takes the known facts about Josephine’s life and weaves a whole backstory into them where she not only writes about crime but also helps to solve them. The books are brilliant and well worth reading if you haven’t discovered them yet.

One of the novels takes place when Josephine Tey is writing The Man in the Queue and when I discovered that this book which introduces Inspector Grant was written in 1929, it was an obvious choice for me to read this week.

The Man in the Queue is about exactly what it says in the title. There is a queue outside a theatre in London for a popular show and a man is stabbed to death. There are no clues to his identity and nobody in the queue remembers seeing anything happening.

Inspector Grant is called in to try and solve the mystery and finds that it takes all of his intelligence to get to the bottom of who the victim is and why he was murdered. He is a really likeable character, thoughtful and charismatic. He also gets on well with all of his colleagues including his superior which is often not the case in modern police procedural novels. He has a strong sense of justice and is reluctant to leave the case alone even when it appears that he has solved it and the murderer is safely under lock and key.

The secondary characters are also memorable. The depiction of the actress Ray Marcable is brilliant. At first, she appears to be as good hearted as she is beautiful but then Inspector Grant and the reader begin to see that she is actually hard and will happily destroy the careers of her leading men to keep herself in the spotlight.

I really enjoyed the way the mystery unfolded as pieces gradually start to fit together. However, this isn’t a story where the reader can put all of the clues together and solve the crime along with the hero. There are clues as to who the murderer is but the actual resolution does come as a surprise. In a way, this was the weakest part of the novel, not because it was unexpected but because it just felt a bit rushed after the way the story had previously developed.

I love novels that have a strong sense of place and this is one of the strengths of this story. The settings of London, the beach on the south coast and the highlands of Scotland are all vividly portrayed and I had no trouble in visualising the scenes that she described.

One thing that really jarred for me was the casual use of racist language that was prevalent at the time. The prime suspect was frequently referred to as a ‘dago’ as he was of Italian appearance. Apparently in other editions, this has been changed to a less offensive term.

Overall, I did love the book. Mainly the writing was excellent and it was a satisfying mystery. I definitely need to track down the other novels that she wrote featuring Alan Grant.

This is post 27 for Blogtober 2022

Blogtober 10 – Murder in Tuscany – a review

I read a lot of what is classed as ‘cosy crime’. It’s undemanding but the puzzles are generally interesting so it’s a great form of relaxation. There are so many new series that it’s hard for any one to stand out. I did however, think that this one is a brilliant start to a new series set in the gorgeous Tuscan countryside

DCI Dan Armstrong has retired and for a retirement gift, his colleagues have brought him a two week writing course high in the hills of Tuscany. The joke is that the course is a course in erotic writing! His fellow course members are a varied lot including a brother and sister who seem far too close in the wrong sort of way and a couple of elderly ladies who write extremely erotic fiction. It doesn’t take long for the murder to occur and Armstrong becomes involved in the investigation.

I really liked the character of Dan Armstrong and feel that this will be an interesting series. As an ex-detective, it doesn’t feel unreasonable that he would become part of the investigation and the growing friendship between him and the Italian detective in charge of the case feels very realistic. Dan is on a journey through this book as he comes to terms with his retirement as well as his impending divorce and I enjoyed seeing how he developed through the novel.

The other course members were interesting with very varied backgrounds meaning that any of them could have been the murderer. There were some great scenes with snappy dialogue which made me laugh out loud at some points. In addition, there is also a gorgeous, cute dog. An unruly pet seems almost obligatory in cosy crime stories at the moment but Oscar is one of the best I have come across.

However, the stand-out character for me was Tuscany itself; the descriptions of the towns and villages as well as the meals eaten were a great addition to an intriguing mystery. The detail was enough to really let the reader picture the scene but not overwhelming and I always love novels that transport me to somewhere new.

This was an intriguing mystery with lots of plot twists which certainly kept me interested.

I’ve never read any of this author’s previous novels but I will certainly look out for the next one in this series.

Thank you to Net Galley and Boldwood Books for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Murder in Tuscany will be published on October 18th 2022

Blogotober – Bleeding Heart Yard – a Review

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths

I love Elly Griffiths’ crime novels especially the Ruth Dalloway series. This is a newish series featuring a young Sikh policewoman but is promising to be just as good as the Dalloway books.

Bleeding Heart Yard is another great outing for the newly promoted Inspector Harbinder Kaur. No longer living in Sussex, in this third book, she has now moved to take up a new role in London heading a detective team. This means she has finally moved out of her parents’ house and is now sharing a flat in London. A new life beckons.

Her first murder enquiry is a high profile one when a prominent MP is found murdered at a school reunion. To complicate matters, her sergeant, Cassie, was also at the event and as a possible witness, cannot be involved in the case. The murder victim was one of an elite group who were all pupils at the school and there seems to some link to the unexplained death of one of their school mates 21 years ago. When another of the group is murdered, things become darker and it is unclear who can be trusted

I enjoyed both of the previous books in this series but this is my favourite one so far. I love the character of Harbinder and it’s great to see her moving on both in her career and her life. She is gay, non-white and small of stature so life in the police is likely to be difficult. However, she is completely competent and soon gains the confidence of her new colleagues. Harbinder’s character seems very real to me. She knows that she is good at her job and has confidence that she can do it properly. However, in her personal life she is a lot less confident and Elly Griffiths does a great job in showing us the different sides of her character. I have really enjoyed seeing how Harbinder has developed over the three books so far.

The other characters are all written with the author’s customary skill. Harbinder’s colleagues are a mixed bag including one who is a friend of the murder victim and could possibly be a suspect. I also love the way that the settings are so vivid in Elly’s books. Bleeding Heart Yard is a real place in London with an actual bistro and the author’s use of this setting adds a feeling of reality to the story

The book is written from different points of view and sometimes we see the same scene twice as we revisit it through the eyes of a different character. I enjoyed this aspect of the book as it’s always interesting to see how different people can view the same event.

I loved this book and am eagerly looking forward to the next one.

I received this ARC from the publishers and Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

Bleeding Heart Yard was published by Quercus Books on September 29th

This is post 3 for Blogtober 2022

Most Anticipated Autumn/Fall Releases

Autumn is always a brilliant time of year for new books as the publishers hope to get us all to put books on our lists for Father Christmas. This year, there seem to be even more amazing books coming out than usual over the next couple of months. These are some of the ones that I am really looking forward to.

Published September 29th

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace finds himself plunged into an unfamiliar and rarefied world of fine art. Outwardly it appears respectable, gentlemanly, above reproach. But beneath the veneer, he rapidly finds that greed, deception and violence walk hand-in-hand.

Harry and Freya, an ordinary couple, dreamed for years of finding something priceless buried amongst the tat in a car boot sale.

It was a dream they knew in their hearts would never come true – until the day it did…
They buy the drab portrait for a few pounds, for its beautiful frame, planning to cut the painting out. Then studying it back at home there seems to be another picture beneath, of a stunning landscape. Could it be a long-lost masterpiece from 1770? If genuine, it could be worth millions.

One collector is certain that the painting is genuine. Someone who will use any method he can to get what he wants and will stop at nothing.

And Harry and Freya are about to discover that their dream is turning into their worst nightmare. .

I’ve read all the Roy Grace books since Peter James first started the series and am definitely looking forward to this next instalment which is actually published today.

Published November 29th

This is the 18th book in the Inspector Gamache series and he’s still going strong in the small town of Three Pines. There doesn’t seem to be any blurb available for this one though.

November 7th

1917. New York.

Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?

From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!

And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.

When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.

But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby . . .

If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.

Spies, music and a New York setting – Who could resist?

Published November 3rd

When Tennal – a rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster – is caught using his telepathic powers for illegal activities, the military decides to bind his mind to someone whose coercive powers are strong enough to control him.

Enter Lieutenant Surit, the child of a disgraced general. Out of a desperate need to restore a pension to his other parent, Lieutenant Surit agrees to be bound to Tennal and keep him conscripted in the army, a task that seems impossible even for someone with Surit’s ability to control minds.

Tennal just wants to escape, but Surit isn’t all that he seems. And their bond may just be the key to their freedom.

I loved Winter’s Orbit by the same author last year. This is another stand alone novel set in the same universe.

Published 24th November

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si’s help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si’s technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it.

But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together…

Another Science Fiction book that sounds so intriguing and has had great reviews. I just hope that I’m not disappointed.

And of course, a couple of Christmas books to look forward to. I love both of these authors.

Published October 27th

Published 13th October

A bit of crime, a bit of Science Fiction and a dash of Christmas romance. These are some of the books that I am looking forward to reading over the next couple of months. What about you?

Book details and images from Net Galley apart from A World of Curiosities.

The Lost Man of Bombay – A Review

The Lost Man of Bombay by Vaseem Khan

I have loved this series since reading Midnight at the Malabar Hotel last year and was really keen to read this latest book in the series.

Persis Wadia is the only female police inspector in India in the years immediately following partition. She has been assigned to the unit based in the Malabar Hotel which is where they put all the officers who they don’t quite know what to do with. She is a gifted detective who achieves great results but constantly has to battle with the prejudice of being a woman doing what is seen as a man’s job. In this book, she is forced to work with the senior detective Oberoi, who makes no secret of the fact that he sees no need for her and in fact, instructs her not to speak during the investigation. The occasions when Persis gets the better of Oberoi and other men who try to put her down provide some of the book’s lighter moments.

The investigation is an intriguing one. It begins when two mountaineers discover a dead body high in the mountains. This discovery is followed by the brutal murder of an Italian businessman and his Indian wife. Both men have their faces destroyed but nothing else seems to link the two cases. Then a further death occurs and the links gradually appear.

Persis is an engaging but sometimes frustrating main character and love the interweaving of the investigation and her personal life. She is feeling confused and almost hostile as she feels that changes are being forced upon her not only by her father but also the criminologist Archie Blackfinch who she is developing feelings for. Her behaviour towards Archie in particular is frustrating as she certainly doesn’t treat him well due to her conviction that there can be no future for them. She is also initially hostile to the idea of being a mentor to a young girl from the slums. You would expect this to be something she would be keen to do. However, her reluctance   stems from her conviction that she can’t do a good job. This makes her a very real character with positive traits and flaws just like the rest of us

The author paints a vivid picture of Bombay and the surrounding area in 1950. We see clearly the inequalities between the rich and the people who like her young mentee, come from the slums. We also visit other locations such as the Banganga Tank and an old prisoner of war camp. Each different location is described in a way that lets the reader visualise the setting without bogging the story down in detail.

The historical background to this story is fully realised and the difficulties thrown up in the aftermath of the British leaving are clear. I enjoyed the greater importance placed on faith in this story too. The faith of the young girl Seema and the priests makes an interesting counterpart to Persis’s own almost forgotten Parsee religion.

I loved this book and totally recommend it to anyone who loves detective fiction especially with a  historical element.

I am really grateful to Net Galley and the publishers, Hodder and Stoughton,  for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.
The Lost Man of Bombay will be published on August 18th by Hodder and Stoughton.

Sundays in bed with …..The Dead of Winter

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed). This week the book by my bed (or on the sofa) is The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson.

Blurb from the book:
Writer Josephine Tey and Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose gather with their friends for a Cornish Christmas but two strange and brutal deaths on St Michael’s Mount – and the unexpected arrival of a world-famous film star in need of sanctuary – interrupt the festivities. Cut off by the sea and the relentless blizzard, can Josephine and Archie prevent the murderer from striking again?

This is probably the least appropriate book to be reading just as we celebrate Midsummer as it takes place at Christmas 1938 with violent snow storms forming part of the plot. I do love this series by Nicola Upson though and so far, this is just as good as the books I have read previously.

I do sometimes wonder if Blurb writers have actually read the book. The arrival of the film star isn’t unexpected at all but is the whole reason why Penrose is on St Michael’s Mount for Christmas. It’s only a small detail but it is important and I really feel that blurbs should be accurate.

What are you reading this Sunday?

Sundays in bed with …….. The Murders at Fleat House

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed). This week the book by my bed (or on the sofa) is The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley.

Blurb from the book:
When a young student is found dead at a private boarding school, its elite reputation is at risk. The headmaster is determined to write the death off as a tragic accident – but Detective Jazz Hunter will soon suspect that a murder has been committed.

Escaping her own problems in London, the beautiful and isolated landscape of rural Norfolk had felt like the ideal place for Jazz to hide. But when it becomes clear the victim was tangled in a web of loyalties and old vendettas that go far beyond just one student and as the body count begins to grow, Jazz knows that she is running out of time.

All roads lead back to the closed world of the school. But Fleat House and its residents refuse to give up their secrets so easily – and as her investigation gathers pace, Jazz realises that that they are even more sinister than she could possibly have imagined.

This is Lucinda Riley’s last published novel after her death last year although she actually wrote it over a decade ago in 2006. It is her only crime novel and so is very different to her more famous Seven Sisters series. I am really enjoying it and can see that the character of Jazz Hunter could easily have become the focus of a new crime series. However, if the author had gone down the route of writing crime fiction, we might never have had the Seven Sisters books and that would have been a real loss.

What are you reading this Sunday?

Historical Crime Fiction Wrap up

The Historical Reader challenge is hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader and details and the sign up page can be found here. I’ve actually read quite a lot of historical crime fiction books but not reviewed them so this post is a catch up of those books with mini reviews of each one.

Rotten to the Core by T E Kinsey

I love this series featuring Lady Emily Hardcastle and her lady’s maid Flo and this one was just as much fun as the previous books. We are in 1911 in the middle of a heatwave with the harvest rapidly approaching when there is a series of murders. All the victims are members of the mysterious Weyrers Society and obviously, Lady Hardcastle and Flo are on hand to help the police with their investigations.

The strength of these books for me is the relationship between Flo and Lady Hardcastle. Flo is a brilliant character who tells us the story from her own viewpoint and although technically, a lady’s maid, her friendship with her employer is clear. The dialogue between them is witty and often made me laugh out loud. The other characters are brilliantly written too and stay just the right side of caricature.

I felt that the book lost something towards the end. Maybe it was the inclusion of Diana Caudle as an addition to the sleuthing team? There were almost too many people involved with solving the mystery. However, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and the perfect accompaniment to a Summer’s evening with possibly a glass of cider.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review. Rotten to the Core will be published by Amazon on 7th June.

Hungry Death by Robin Blake

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mystery even though I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series. Although there are one or two references to previous cases, the book works perfectly as a stand-alone.

The novel is set in the 1740s and the coroner, Titus Cragg, has been called to determine the cause of gruesome family deaths at a local farm. The family concerned were all part of a mysterious cult which may have contributed to the killings. In addition to this, another body is discovered at the house of the local magistrate during improvements to his hot house. Cragg and his friend, Doctor Fidelis now have two mysteries to investigate.

I really enjoyed both the mystery and the historical setting of this story. The story was well-plotted and the historical detail gave an excellent idea of life at the time for both rich and some of the poorest people. I really enjoyed the way that the mysteries were solved by Cragg and Fidelis with the help of other people. All the different threads of the story eventually came together in the inquest as the evidence was finally pulled together

This was a great historical murder mystery and  I will certainly look out for other books in this series. Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Severn House for my ARC in exchange for my honest review. Hungry Death was published on May 3rd.

Dear Little Corpses by Nicola Upson

I really loved this book. Dear Little Corpses is Nicola Upson’s latest novel in her brilliant series featuring the novelist and playwright, Josephine Tey and I think it is possibly her best yet. Although it is part of a series, it is entirely possible to read this as a stand-alone. After reading this one, I’m now going back and finding the books in the series that I’ve missed so far.

This latest book is set right on the eve of WWII as the country waits for war to be declared. It opens with three apparently unconnected scenes, a murder victim is discovered in a block of flats in London, a family say goodbye to their 5 year old daughter as the evacuation of children begins and in Suffolk, Josephine and her lover Marta are preparing to help with the arrival of the evacuees.

The scene setting and historical detail is brilliant and you really get a feel for what it might have been like in September 1939. The story unfolds very gradually which allows you time to get to know the cast of characters many of whom have their dark secrets. I loved the introduction of Margery Allingham into the novel and the new friendship between her and Josephine was delightful. I really hope that this continues to feature in future books. The plot is brilliantly worked out and as the story develops, we see how the three opening scenes are in fact, connected after all.

I would definitely recommend this book and am grateful to Net Galley and the publishers, Faber and Faber for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review. Dear Little Corpses was published on May 19th

A Dangerous Engagement by Ashley Weaver

Unlike the previous books in this post, this is one of my current library books and was published in September 2019.

The book is set in the early 1930s when English socialite and amateur detective Amory Ames travels with her husband to New York to attend the wedding of her childhood friend Tabitha Alden. On arrival in New York, Ashley begins to feel that something is very wrong. Both Tabitha and her father seem to be on edge and keeping secrets from the other. Mr Alden’s business seems to be doing suspiciously well and Ashley begins to wonder if he is involved in illegal bootlegging as Prohibition is in force in the US. There are also tensions between Tabitha and one of the friends of her fiance who will be best man at the wedding. However, the tensions don’t prepare anyone for the shock when one of the wedding party is brutally murdered.

The book contains all the ingredients necessary for a story set in this period. The wedding party attend night clubs and speak easies and there is quite a lot of description of Amory’s clothes. It’s an enjoyable read and Amory is an interesting character. I liked the relationship between her and her husband Milo which isn’t always as smooth as it might be. The supporting characters are well written and I especially liked the portrayal of the night club singer Esther who is more than she initially seems to be. The historical setting is well done and feels accurate.

Historical Crime Fiction continues to be one of my favourite genres and I thoroughly enjoyed each one of these books.

Have you read any good historical fiction lately?