Tag Archives: mystery

Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

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When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her . . .

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I enjoy a good thriller and I also like well-written romantic fiction especially historical so Beneath a Burning Sky ticks all the boxes for me. There is mystery, intrigue, illicit romance, abduction, lies, betrayal, murder. The story takes place in 1890s Alexandria when Egypt was still under British occupation and begins with an abduction then takes us back to a few months earlier.

22 year old Olivia has been brought to Alexandria by her husband Alistair who, you find out very quickly, is a thoroughly nasty, controlling, cruel character. Olivia is very unhappy but is unable to tell anyone. So, I thought to myself, it’s a bit of a melodrama; maybe a bit of a cliché.

I’m happy to say I was wrong. It’s better than that and I really enjoyed the story.

Years earlier, Olivia and her sister Clara had been forced to leave their childhood home of Cairo after the death of their parents and return to England to their grandmother. However their grandmother, a bitter, nasty woman, had kept them apart and had allowed no communication between the sisters. The grandmother also had a hand in leaving Olivia no choice but to marry Alistair, colluding with him to virtually blackmail Olivia into marriage. On a happier note, it turns out her older sister Clara is married to Alistair’s business partner and has been living in Alexandria with her husband and children.

The story is quite complex, there are several threads and quite a lot of characters, and yet I didn’t find it too complicated. It is well written with a good balance of description, dialogue and background information so it’s not difficult to read. The romantic parts are not overly mushy but they are part of the story. I didn’t try too hard to work out the connections between some of the characters; I just let myself enjoy the story and the plot twists and wait for the connections to be revealed in time.

You hope there will be a happy ending but you can’t be entirely sure given the way the story unfolds. You just have to read it and find out for yourself!

Beneath a Burning Sky is Jenny Ashcroft’s debut novel in the UK. It was published in paperback on 29 June 2017 by Sphere. It is also available for Kindle.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Sphere for providing a digital copy]

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The Dry – Jane Harper

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I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

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The Dry is a very good debut novel. I liked the writing. It kind of sucked me in immediately. I felt as if I was in that hot, dry town of Kiewarra which was suffering from a longstanding drought.

Aaron Falk is the outsider who has reluctantly returned to the town of Kiewarra where he had grown up, to attend the funeral of Luke Hadler and his wife and son. Luke and Aaron had been friends when they were younger but Aaron had left Kiewarra with his father and had gone to live in the city where he now worked as a policeman. Luke remained a farmer, married Karen and had two children. Apparently Luke came home on day shot his wife and son (but not the baby daughter) and then shot himself in the face.

Aaron planned to stay just for the funeral and wake and leave the next day but he is persuaded by Luke’s parents to stay on for a few days to look into the deaths to see if their son’s name can be cleared. What caused Luke to murder his wife and son? Was his business in financial ruin? When Aaron starts to investigate he finds a few things that just don’t make sense.

Things are complicated by the fact that Aaron is not welcome in the town. He and his father had left the town twenty odd years before having been under suspicion for the death of 16 year old Ellie Deacon, who had been Aaron’s girlfriend at the time. Luke had come up with an story that gave Aaron an alibi at that time but they had agreed to keep that secret between them.

However as Aaron and local police Sergeant Greg Raco investigate deeper, old wounds open, scores have to be settled. Emotions are running high. The drought has affected everyone. Livestock have had to be destroyed because there is no feed, debts are mounting, some farmers have been ruined. Was Luke another casualty of the drought?

Aaron is threatened, his vehicle is damaged, he is challenged in the street, he’s accused of harassment – the tension and the underlying threat of violence is kept running high.

In the meantime we get flashbacks to what actually happened in the past (printed in italics so easily distinguished from the present).

There are quite a few twists and red herrings. Just as Aaron and Raco think they have someone who could have been involved in the family’s murder, an alibi surfaces.

The writing is good and the characters are interesting. I liked the flashbacks to the past. Emotions and surroundings are at flashpoint (literally). A real page turner and a very good ending.

The Dry has already been published in Australia and the author’s webpage can be found here.

It’s scheduled for release in the UK 12 January 2017.

My thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for an advance copy.

 

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