The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

 

51b6j-wez0l

 

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.
 
And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

*********

I loved this book. The Other Half of Augusta Hope is a wonderful debut from Joanna Glen.

There are really two stories here, one told by Augusta and the other by Parfait.

Augusta Hope is a second born twin who doesn’t seem to quite fit in with her family. There is something very unique about her. Augusta is the clever and quite intense sister. Her twin Julia is the pretty and popular sister.

Augusta is fascinated by and loves words. When she was 8 Augusta decided that her favourite country was Burundi, simply because she loved the sound of the name. She is determined she will leave home and go there some day.. Following the most dreadful and shocking family tragedy she does eventually leave home, but not for Burundi. She retreats to Spain to a place where she had once spent a holiday with her family.

Meanwhile in war-torn Burundi orphaned Parfait is struggling to keep his family together. When tragedy strikes he too is determined to leave for a better life and embarks on the long, long journey. to try to reach Europe.

Their stories are told separately and as their stories unfold you see some parallels in their very different histories and also huge differences. Two stories, different continents. Will their stories connect somehow?

I really liked the wonderful storytelling cleverly interwoven. All the characters are interesting, not just Augusta, Julia and Parfait. The tale is funny, sad, tragic, devastating, frightening and heartwarming. and most of all enjoyable.  (Although you might need some tissues close by for both the joy and the sadness)

Definitely recommended.  The Kindle and Hardcover editions are available now.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, The Borough Press, for providing a digital review copy]

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Death of Mrs Westaway – Ruth Ware

51ctmjsw62bl._sx322_bo1204203200_

 

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast. 

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her. 

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

*********

I enjoyed reading The Death of Mrs Westaway. I haven’t read any of Ruth Ware’s previous books but I like her writing style and the storytelling.

Harriet Westaway, known as Hal, is on her own, is totally skint and owes money to a loan shark. She works as a seaside fortune teller in Brighton, doing tarot readings, having taken over the business from her late mother who was killed in an accident.

She’s pretty low when a letter arrives from a solicitor saying she is a named beneficiary in the substantial estate of her late grandmother, advising of the funeral date and extending an invitation to family members to stay at the grandmother’s house.

Hal knows the letter isn’t meant for her. Her grandparents died a long time ago but knowing that she’s good at cold readings of people she decides to travel to Cornwall for the funeral and try to pass herself off as the real beneficiary in the hope of securing just enough to clear her debts.

Despite this dishonesty I really liked Hal and felt sympathy for her. She’s not a bad person – just desperate for some help to clear debts.

She gets to Cornwall just in time for the funeral where she meets Mr Treswick the solicitor. She’s cold, wet, hungry and afterwards he gives her a lift to the house where the ancient housekeeper Mrs Warren isn’t very welcoming, and puts her in a cold attic room away from the rest of the house. Of course Trepassen House is a big, cold and gloomy house, not helped by the presence of Mrs Warren the housekeeper. It all sounds quite gothic.

When she is introduced to her three ‘uncles’ who have never met her she has to have her wits about her to answer and/or deflect their questions. She seems to pass without committing any dreadful error or giving too much away while waiting for the solicitor to read the Will. While the ‘uncles’ seem to accept Hal as a niece they didn’t know about, it becomes clear Mrs Warren has really taken against her.

She ends up having to stay a bit longer than intended and the longer she’s there, the more troubled she becomes. She suspects she may have some kind of connection to the family but what that is, isn’t clear.

The present day story about Hal and the family is interspersed with what looks like journal entries from years earlier, written by someone unknown and they do seem to help carry the story forward in some way. It’s all quite intriguing.

But there are secrets still to be revealed and Hal senses that not everyone is happy that she’s a beneficiary. Someone apparently wishes her ill. Her search for the truth reveals lies and betrayals and someone is desperate to silence her permanently.  Who can she trust?  It isn’t a fast paced thriller,  perhaps more of a mystery with psychological thriller elements.  I found it entertaining and engrossing.

The Death of Mrs Westaway is available in hardcover, kindle and now paperback.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a digital copy of this book]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Way of All Flesh – Ambrose Parry

51rwlchom6l

 

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

In Edinburgh’s Old Town young women are being found dead, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. Across the city in the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of Raven’s intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

*********

The Way of All Flesh is set in 1847 Edinburgh. I love the sound of the author’s name, Ambrose Parry, and the book’s cover and the name just seem perfectly suited to the story. It turns out Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym and the book is co-written by the writer Chris Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman,  a consultant anaesthetist who also has a master’s degree in medical history.

This book ticks so many boxes for me: historical crime fiction, medical, gothic, murder mystery, greed, corruption, good storytelling based around real events, likeable characters but with a bit of mystery and depth.

Chris Brookmyre is one of my favourite authors. He’s a very good storyteller. I haven’t read all his earlier books (yet) but the books I have read, I’ve enjoyed very much.   The Way of All Flesh goes in a different direction but the writing partnership  has produced a wonderful story full of interesting characters from the past, both real and fictional.

The book is set in Edinburgh. I usually like stories that are located in places I know and I’m familiar with Edinburgh.

It’s the year 1847, a time when there were significant discoveries in medicine and science, especially in Edinburgh, where reputations and money are to be made. Will Raven is a young medical student with a past that he keeps hidden , living in the Old Town and about to move into the New Town household of the eminent obstetrician Professor James Simpson to embark on his medical apprenticeship. Professor Simpson treats women in both the richest and the poorest parts of the town.

There’s a stark contrast between the New Town (rich) and the Old Town (poor) parts of Edinburgh, and there have been a number of young women found in the Old Town having suffered a gruesome end, one of them having been a friend of Will’s. I do like a good medical mystery.

The characters are good. Sarah the housemaid is a strong character. She’s very intelligent but being female has none of the privileges that Will has (studying medicine) and takes a dislike to him. Will has a bit of a dark past. He does however enlist Sarah’s help to try and solve the mystery of who is killing all these young women.

It’s a great read and I am so happy that there are going to be two more Ambrose Parry books. The first of these, The Art of Dying, is due out in August 2019.  I feel there is still such a lot to learn about Will and Sarah.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Definitely recommended.

The Way of All Flesh is available in in Kindle and Hardback editions.  The paperback edition is due to be published later this month on 30 April 2019.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sins as Scarlet – Nicolás Obregón

51hgcj7-zcl

 

Living in LA and working as a private detective he spends his days spying on unfaithful spouses and his nights with an unavailable woman. Still he cannot forget the family he lost in Tokyo.

But that all changes when a figure from his old life appears at his door demanding his help.

Meredith Nichol, a transgender woman and his wife’s sister, has been found strangled on the lonely train tracks behind Skid Row.

Soon he discovers that the devil is at play in the City of Angels and Meredith’s death wasn’t the hate crime the police believe it to be. This is dangerous territory. But Iwata knows that risking his life and future is the only way to silence the demons of his past.

Reluctantly throwing himself back in to the dangerous existence he only just escaped, Iwata discovers a seedy world of corruption, exploitation and murder – and a river of sin flowing through LA’s underbelly, Mexico’s dusty borderlands, and deep within his own past.

*********

I enjoyed Nicolás Obregón’s debut novel Blue Light Yokohama which was set in Tokyo. and featured Inspector Kosuke Iwata.  You can find my earlier review HERE.

In Sins as Scarlet there have been big changes in the life of Inspector Kosuke Iwata.

He is no longer an inspector with the Tokyo Homicide Department. He’s no longer a Police Detective. Having left Japan in 2011 with almost nothing, he’s now living in Los Angeles and working as a private investigator, mostly providing evidence of cheating husbands and wives to his clients. He has also reconnected with his mother Nozomi although the relationship still seems a bit distant and a lot of things are left unsaid. You get the feeling Iwata is fairly self-contained.

When his late wife’s mother comes into his office demanding that Iwata investigates her son’s recent murder, he feels he has no choice but to investigate. Julian had transitioned into Meredith years before and the Police were treating it as just another hate crime, saying terrible things about Meredith and basically doing nothing.

The investigation takes Iwata into some dark, dangerous and violent places and also across the US – Mexican border. He uncovers crimes involving more missing transgender women and is taken into a world of corruption, exploitation and human trafficking and puts himself in extreme danger.

As well as the present day investigation, we’re also taken back to Tokyo 1975 to learn of his mother’s story and everything she endured; how she came to abandon Iwata in a Japanese orphanage and then came back to get him with her new husband years later. I liked this as it filled in a few things that were hinted at in the earlier book. We also got a little bit of Iwata’s back story and what happened to his wife and child and I think this helped explain some of Iwata’s issues and later actions.

It’s quite a complex, layered story. At times there was more violence and brutality than I would normally want to read about but I find Iwata quite a compelling character. He’s tenacious and a skilled detective but also very self contained and reluctant to let people get too close but by the end of the book I thought I could see a hint of some softening at the edges.

If there’s a third book in the series I suspect we might find a slightly different Iwata.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing a digital review copy.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Quaker – Liam McIlvanney

** Winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2018 **

51o0tlfc3dl

 

A city torn apart.
Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer whose name fills the streets with fear: the Quaker. He takes his next victim – the third woman from the same nightclub – and dumps her in the street like rubbish.

A detective with everything to prove.
The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider.

A killer who hunts in the shadows.
When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…

*********

The Quaker is set in 1969 Glasgow.  It’s a fictional account of the hunt for a serial killer, very loosely based on a real case. Three women, each raped, strangled and dumped; each believed to have met their killer, reported to be a respectable looking, bible quoting man, at the Barrowland Ballroom.

Glasgow is in the grip of one of the worst winters and months of police investigation into the murders is getting nowhere. There are posters everywhere showing an artist’s impression of the Quaker’s face – a respectable looking man; the victims faces are splashed across the newspapers; rumours abound as to the Quaker’s identity. Thousands of police hours are spent following up every call, every letter written by members of the public, taking statements, crossing the city to interview possible suspects but still the investigation is getting nowhere. Following the death of the third victim, there have been no further murders but the investigating team are still going through boxes and boxes of statements trying to make connections that might solve the case. Stirred by the Press, the public are demanding results.

Against this background DI Duncan McCormack arrives on secondment from the Flying Squad to review the investigation and make recommendations. He’s not made welcome by the Quaker team. He’s an outsider in more ways than one and the team make life very difficult for him. They suspect McCormack is meant to write a report that will shut the investigation down. He gets a particularly hard time from another officer, Derek Goldie.

In the meantime safebreaker Alex Paton who has been living in London for a while is returning to Glasgow to take part in planned auction house heist. Following the robbery, Paton goes to ground in an empty top floor flat in a building due for demolition. He’s still hiding out there when a body is found in one of the ground floor flats. Police believe she’s the fourth victim of the Quaker. With the discovery of Paton’s hideout they feel they’re making progress in catching the Quaker.

There’s a lot to get your teeth into. The author manages to weave the various threads into a gritty, dark tale set in a time before social media and mobile communications. Gathering evidence was a painstaking task. It was only when I got to the end that I realised how many clues I had missed. There are also quite a few red herrings. The murder victims have a voice too, each one relating what was happening in their life around the time of their murders.

I often enjoy stories set in locations I know and I know Glasgow. I think when you are familiar with a location it’s easier to visualise events and you get more involved in the story. (Good writing helps too of course!) I hope this will just be the first of a series of books featuring DI Duncan McCormack. I think I want to know a bit more about him.

The Quaker was published on 28 June 2018 (kindle and hardback).  My thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for providing a digital review copy.

On 21 September at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival The Quaker was announced as the winner of the McIlvanney prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2018.

Author website:  www.liammcilvanney.com

Bloody Scotland  Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bloodyscotland.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

No Further Questions – Gillian McAllister

51t2bsv5a-kl

 

The police say she’s guilty.

She insists she’s innocent.

She’s your sister.

You loved her.

You trusted her.

But they say she killed your child.

Who do you believe?

*********

Gillian McAllister writes great stories.  No Further Questions is her third novel and I loved it.  Gillian McAllister doesn’t mess about. I was hooked immediately.

The story centres round a court case but it’s also about a family and how everyone is affected by a terrible tragedy. The first voice is Martha’s whose baby daughter died. She’s in Court and it’s the first day of the trial. The defence says cot death; the prosecution says murder. They can’t both be right but her sister Becky, who was minding baby Layla at the time, has been charged with murder.

The story is told through witness testimony and flashbacks and observations of the lawyers, the judge, family members and of course the two sisters, Martha and Becky. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so conflicted. I was pulled in all directions. I would go from, “there’s no way Becky murdered her niece” to “oh, I didn’t realise that, maybe she is hiding something” then something would be said that turned everything on its head again. As the story unfolded doubts crept in (on a regular basis) as to what really happened.

There are no good or bad characters. Nothing is quite black or white. They all have their flaws and their good qualities. I liked them and cared about what happened to them.

Although the story centres round a tragedy, I really enjoyed it. It’s quite an emotional roller-coaster but the writing is good, the characters are interesting and believable and I felt involved all the way through.

A book I found difficult to put down; I’d definitely recommend it.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing a digital review copy].

You can find my earlier reviews of Everything but the Truth HERE and Anything You Do Say HERE.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE BEST LAID PLANS …… or, time to return to pencil and paper?

Why is it when you make plans to get up to date with admin (and blogging), technology lets you down – again!

I know I’m easily distracted but I really did intend to catch up with drafting book reviews and post a couple (I’ve read three really good books in the past month).  I had some rough notes jotted down in a Word document ready for me to transform into a few paragraphs that made sense.

Went upstairs on Friday evening, switched on the PC ….. nothing.  The computer tried to start then spluttered and died.  Tried a few things ….. still nothing.  Of course my notes are not on a shared platform, just on the PC.  Typical.

Looked out an old (ancient) laptop.  I’m pretty sure it was still working when I stopped using it but it was old and slow.  Plugged it in …… nothing.  I could hear it trying to start but again, it just died.  There wasn’t even a flicker on the screen.

I have an android tablet and a smartphone but I find it incredibly difficult to type meaningful paragraphs without making mistakes.  The keyboard part of the screen is so tiny and it’s not so easy to cut and paste and swap things around.

Late last night I found another old device and I’ve managed to get it working for now so I’m kind of using this post as a typing practice. I’m so not used to this keyboard.  Small Notebook keyboards are not great to type on (but better than a tablet!)

Oh well.  Time to get on with drafting my reviews.  Perhaps I should go back to pencil and paper.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized