The Detective – Book Review

The Detective by Ajay Chowdhury

This is the third novel featuring Kamil Rahman and he is now an actual police officer having completed his training. This makes this novel more of a police procedural than the previous two but Kamil’s character remains unchanged. He is still a brilliant mix of insecurity and confidence and I loved the story of his experiences on his first investigation with the Met. As part of a murder investigation, he becomes the right hand man to the senior officer on the case which causes resentment among his colleagues. He also finds it hard being a constable after previously being an Inspector which leads him to take actions which are really not in keeping with his role.

The investigation takes us into the realms of AI where a company is developing new algorithms for a dating app that could actually be used for surveillance of the general population. The plot is extremely twisty with various possible motives for the murders. At the same time, there is a parallel murder story which takes place in 1913 and seen through a prologue and then letters. There is no apparent link between the two cases but they are both resolved at the end.

Kamil is still living with Anjoli who is running the restaurant where Kamil started out at the beginning of this series and is struggling with his developing attraction for his landlady. While Kamil is completely occupied by the murder at the construction site, Anjoli becomes engrossed in trying to find out the identity of the victims of the 1913 murder. The relationship between them is as spiky as ever and becomes even more complicated by the arrival of Kamil’s ex-fiancee from Pakistan.

This book doesn’t shrink from the less pleasant side of life in modern Britain. We see racism directed towards Kamil at work as well as anti-Semetism in the historical part of the plot. However, there is also are a lot of good things happening and people working together especially in the help given to the homeless.

I found this one a bit less compelling than the previous two, possibly due to the technicalities of the plot but also because I found Anjoli’s presence at times in the investigation a bit far-fetched. Now that Kamil is a fully fledged policeman, it was hard to see how her role could plausibly continue. However, it was still a great read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys well plotted murder mysteries.

This could be read as a standalone however, if you haven’t read The Waiter  or The Cook then I would definitely recommend them as great crime novels that stand out a bit from the many that are released each year.

I read this book as an ARC which I received from the publisher via netgalley in return for my honest review.

The Detective was released on April 13th by Harvill Secker


The So Blue Marble #1940Club

It’s Day three of the #1940Club hosted by Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon at Stuck in a Book. This is the third time that I’ve taken part in this event and I’ve tried to be a bit more adventurous this time and not just stick to authors that I know I will love. However, I started with an Agatha Christie but today I’ve branched out into reading an author that I had never heard of before.

When I was looking at a list of titles of books published during 1940, The So Blue Marble stood out as an interesting title

This was the debut novel by Dorothy B Hughes who was an American crime writer and who published 14 novels. I had no idea what to expect but I found it to be a really enjoyable read.

Griselda Satterlee is a Hollywood star turned fashion designer who is on a visit to New York where she is staying in her ex-husband’s apartment. On her return to the apartment after a night out, she is accosted by identical twins, David and Daniel who force her to let them into the apartment and demand that she hands over the so blue marble. Griselda has no idea what they are talking about and they eventually leave when her neighbour calls to see if she is OK. From then on, her life seems to become part of a nightmare as she continually meets the twins who are very well known to her youngest sister Missy. The plot never slackens as the twins continue their search for the marble and getting rid of anyone who stands in their way without a second thought.

I was gripped from the beginning when we feel Griselda’s unease as she walks back to her apartment at night. The sense of menace is really well done and kept me turning the pages. The cast of characters are definitely the bright young things of New York, rich socialites, Hollywood stars and bankers who are absorbed by their own lives and seemingly have no idea about the real personalities hiding behind the elegance of the twins. A sense of reality is provided by the maid who comes into clean the apartment and the first murder victim as we meet his widow and feel her grief.

Thinking back over the book, the plot is quite implausible as we read about a marble that can be opened and contains secrets that will lead to untold wealth and murders occur without anyone suspecting who is responsible. However, I’m a lover of fantasy novels and so implausible plots aren’t generally a problem for me. As I read the book, I got caught up in the story and the non stop plot twists. The reader is very aware of who the villains are in the story but deciding who can actually be trusted was a different matter entirely.

This was a fun crime story which I feel is very much of the time that it was written in. I would happily read another novel by Dorothy Hughes so my aim of discovering new books has been achieved so far.

Sad Cypress #1940Club

It’s Day two of the #1940Club hosted by Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon at Stuck in a Book. This is the third time that I’ve taken part in this event and I’ve tried to be a bit more adventurous this time and not just stick to authors that I know I will love. However, I’m kicking off my week of reading books written in 1940 with a tried and trusted author, Agatha Christie.

Dame Agatha wrote 2 books in 1940, One, Two Buckle My Shoe and Sad Cypress. I decided to read Sad Cypress, mainly because it was on the library shelf 😃

Published in 1940, this is another of Christie’s ever popular Poirot novels.

It opens quite dramatically with a court scene as Elinor Carlisle stands accused of the murder of Mary Garrard. We see the court through her eyes as she identifies all the people who have been connected to her and who we will meet during the book. Also among the spectators at court is Hercules Poirot who has been engaged to prove her innocence.

The book then goes back to the beginning of the mystery which was when Elinor received an anonymous letter warning her that someone was trying to ingratiate themselves with her aunt with a view to cutting Elinor out of her rightful inheritance. Elinor and her fiancé rush to her aunt’s side and we meet the beautiful Mary Garrard who has become a valued a companion to her aunt. It doesn’t take long for Roddy to fall head over heels in love with Mary and so when Elinor’s aunt and then Mary die, Elinor is the obvious suspect for both of their deaths. Only the local doctor feels that Elinor is innocent and he engages Poirot to find out the truth of the matter.

A lot of the book is told from Elinor’s point of view and we see her internal feelings which are often at odds with the personality that she presents to others. She doesn’t like Mary at all and in fact, she admits to herself that she actually hates her which leads the reader to believing her to be guilty. There are other times during the novel when her thoughts and actions seem to indicate that she must in fact be the murderer and then Poirot will discover something to make the reader think again. She actually comes across as quite an unsympathetic character in places but as I read, I began to like her more and hope that she was innocent even as it seemed that there were no other real suspects.

Unlike several of the other Poirot novels where he is involved right from the beginning, he doesn’t really appear until the second part of the book after the young doctor, Peter Lord has begged him to try and prove Elinor’s innocence. He then goes round chatting to all of the people involved but the case still against Elinor still seems hopeless. This is definitely a case where Poirot has to exercise his ‘little grey cells’ to prove her innocence. I definitely didn’t guess the murderer but for me, the pleasure of reading these novels is to witness the process rather than to try and beat the author.

Although it isn’t a typical Poirot novel, it is still a typical Christie in her exploration of human nature. We see the complexity of people’s characters especially in Elinor who demonstrates some really unlikeable qualities while still engaging our (and Poirot’s) sympathy. I really enjoyed Poirot’s wanderings around the neighbourhood as he meets all of the people who knew Mary and were involved in her life.

I haven’t read any Agatha Christie for some years and rereading this one has definitely whetted my appetite for her novels again.

Death Under a Little Sky – Book Review

Death Under a Little Sky by Stig Abell

This is an absorbing crime novel set somewhere in rural England. DI Jake Jackson has inherited a house deep in the countryside and as his marriage has just broken up and he has become disillusioned with his career with the Met, he gives up his former life and moves in. He finds that he is living in a very isolated part of the country without even modern conveniences such as a washing machine in his new home. He finds comfort in living a solitary life and also enjoys his uncle’s extensive library of crime novels.

He begins to make connections with the inhabitants of the nearby village and takes part in a fun treasure hunt. The mystery begins when the treasure is discovered and is found to actually be human bones. This leads Jake to question the death of a young woman 10 years earlier. The close knit local community are unhappy with him asking questions but soon an actual murder occurs which makes Jake even more determined to find out the truth. He is helped in this by Livia, the local vet and also has the blessing of the local police who don’t have the manpower to cover this area.

This is a very slow paced novel and also written in the present tense which always takes me a bit of time to get used to. I enjoyed the pacing and really liked the character of Jake although I did wonder whether it is actually possible to be as isolated as Jake is nowadays. The novel is heavy on character and setting and it reminded me of the novels by Jane Harper which have a similar feel.

I loved the intriguing prologue which showed the characters in a series of snapshots ten years previously and set the scene for the mystery that follows. The growing relationship between Jake and Livia felt very natural with both of them being a little reluctant to become involved. The secondary characters were well written too and the dialogue was enjoyable.

The novel is beautifully written and is as much about Jake finding his feet in his new life as a murder mystery. I found it engrossing but can see how some people might find the pacing too slow.

I thought it was an excellent debut novel and look forward to reading what Stig Abell writes next.

Death Under a Little Sky is published by Harper Collins UK on April 13th 2023.

Thank you to Net Galley and Harper Collins UK for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

5 New Mystery/Crime novels – Top 5 Tuesday

Good Morning and welcome to Tuesday. The sun is shining but the grass looks suspiciously white and frosty so I’m avoiding going outside for a bit until it warms up slightly. That gives me time to write this week’s Top 5 Tuesday post.

Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, and it is now being hosted by the lovely Meeghan at Meeghan reads!! For details of all of the prompts for Oct to Dec see Meeghan’s post.

This week is a freebie. I usually hate freebies because that means I have to decide what to post about and it’s so difficult choosing😃😃However, I had this post in my head already so it wasn’t too hard this week. This week’s post is 5 great mystery or crime novels that I have read recently.

The Murder Game by Tom Hindle
This was a brilliant locked room murder mystery very much in the style of Agatha Christie. A party of guests assemble at a local hotel for a murder mystery game together with the three actors who are there to supply clues when needed. Of course, one of the guests shortly ends up dead and the murder game suddenly becomes real. This is Tom Hindle’s second book after A Fatal Voyage last year and was just as good.

Murder in Chianti by T A Williams
This is an intriguing mystery which takes place in  the gorgeous setting of Tuscany. Dan Armstrong is a retired DCI living not far from Florence who has become friends with the local police officer. It is logical that he is asked to help with translating in the latest murder investigation. Dan is a really likeable main character and his dog, Oscar is just gorgeous. This is the second in this series and was a really fun read.

The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson
This is definitely one of my favourite mystery stories this year. Three actresses who have all played the part of the fictional 1930s investigator, Dinah Lively, come together for a festival weekend when a real murder happens. The three women are all very different and initially very suspicious of each other but come and work together to solve the crime.

Exiles by Jane Harper
Another of my favourite books so far this year. I love all of Jane Harper’s novels and this one was just as good as all her previous works. You can read my review here

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.

I really enjoyed this debut novel. The characters are all likeable and there was fair amount of humour sprinkled around in the dialogue.

So that’s my Top 5 Tuesday post for this week. What mystery novels have you read recently?

Exiles by Jane Harper #BookReview

A new Jane Harper is always an exciting event and Exiles definitely lived up to my expectations. I have read all of her novels and loved each one of them. Her first book, The Dry, introduced the detective Aaron Falk and he makes his third appearance in this book.

In this latest book, I really enjoyed seeing him in totally new surroundings. This story takes place in a small Australian town in wine growing country and as always with Jane Harper, the sense of place is incredible. The landscape is vividly described and although it is very lush and green, we soon see how threats can lie hidden.

A year before the story begins, a young mother, Kim, had gone missing and she has never been traced. As Falk spends time with his friends who include Kim’s ex-partner and daughter, he gets drawn into the investigation of her disappearance and begins to realise that things are not necessarily as they seem.

I loved the gradual untangling of this mystery and the way we were drawn into the life of this small town where everyone knows one another. It’s quite a slow burn read and the sense of urgency in some mysteries is not present here as it’s effectively a cold case. Instead, the events of the past are slowly revealed through the different character’s viewpoints. As we get to know the characters and begin to see how their relationships are all tangled up together, we also get their memories of events of the previous year. Eventually that builds up to a complete picture although the final revelation still came as a shock to me.  

The cast of characters were all likeable which made the mystery even more puzzling as it was hard to see how any of them could have been involved.  I really liked the focus on the teenagers, especially Kim’s teenage daughter. Aaron Falk is one of my favourite detectives and I really enjoyed his story arc in this book. We see him at the beginning where he is finding that the pressures and workload of his job are getting in the way of any possible relationships and by the end of the novel, he has reached a decision that enables him to have a chance of finding happiness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am really grateful to Net Galley and the publishers for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves mystery stories with a strong sense of place and atmosphere.

Exiles is published by Pan MacMillan on February 2nd 2023

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.

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