Monday, 23 April 2018

The Coffin Path

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements
Published by Headline Review
February 2018

Maybe you've heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there's something up here, something evil.
Mercy Booth isn't afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father's study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.
When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can't see it yet.

This is Katherine Clements' third novel and this one is set Just after the civil wars, across the moors of Yorkshire which make for a compellingly spooky and atmospheric back-drop to the story.  Scarcross Hall is the home of Mercy Booth, a farmers daughter who takes her role as heir to the family business very seriously.  One day upon walking the moors she feels that someone or something is watching her and this feeling continues both on the moors and back at home.  When a mysterious stranger appears asking for seasonal work, Mercy finds herself reluctant to take him on, but with nothing more than a feeling to base it on, she has no choice but to accept him.
Soon there are occurrences that no one can account for.  Sheep and lambs are being taken and killed across the moors, with no evidence as to who or what is doing the killing, and at Scarcross Hall, her father's prize possession, three ancient gold coins have vanished.
"One marks the first to go. A second bodes the fall. The third will seal a sinner's fate. The Devil takes them all."
In parts this was a little like The Silent Companions because of the link with things moving unaccountably within a house and if you enjoyed that, then you will certainly want to put this on your reading list.  My only negative is that there is a lot of talk about sheep and lambs, a lot!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Dark Angel

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths
Published by Quercus
February 2018

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He's discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village near Rome but doesn't know what to make of them. It's years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!
So Ruth travels to Castello degli Angeli, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a baffling Roman mystery and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also soon finds Harry Nelson, with Cathbad in tow. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock - the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Castello degli Angeli that someone would kill to protect.

This is the latest in the Ruth Galloway series of books by Elly Griffiths and for once this isn't predominantly set in Ruth's beloved Norfolk but in Italy!  The change in scenery does change the novel in some ways because where we, the reader, are used to the windswept, lonely, brooding coastline of the east coast of England, we are suddenly transported to sunny, hot Italy and neither Kate, nor Nelson feel totally at home here.  Whilst a holiday to Rome is a rest from the norm, I was glad when everyone returned home at the end of the story.

An old flame of Ruth's, Dr Angelo Morelli gets in touch and asks her to come over to his home to have a look at some bones that have been discovered on a site he has been filming at.  Desperate for a much needed holiday for her and her daughter Kate, Ruth rapidly agrees to go, accompanied by her friend Shona and her son.  It's not long after they arrive that Ruth suspects there is more going on in Castello degli Angeli than first met the eye, especially when the local priest is found murdered in his church and a freak earthquake soon has DCI Nelson and the faithful Cathbad boarding a plane to Italy.  

Meanwhile, an ex-prisoner with a grudge against Nelson has been released and whilst Harry is away holidaying with his youngest daughter, his wife and daughter are experiencing their own troubles.  Nelson clearly can't be in two places at once so who is going to protect Helen in her hour of need?

Obviously anyone who has followed the series throughout knows that there is an underlying story-line going on here with the relationship between Ruth and Nelson, and Michelle and Tim, and for some of us, this is more at the forefront of our minds when reading the story than with the actual crimes that are committed, and yes, I'll admit that it's that way for me - if this baby isn't Tim's I might just cry!!!!!  If you haven't discovered this series of books yet, and you love crime fiction, then do try the Dr Ruth Galloway books because you might just fall in love with the characters like I have done.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Hunger

The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Published by Bantam Press
April 2018

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

When I saw that The Hunger was being published I instantly requested a copy to read because I have a degree in American Studies and so the infamous story of the Donner party attempting to cross America in 1846 was something that was well documented when I was at university.  Alma Katsu's book is an homage to this event, to the families that joined the Donner's to cross America to make it to California to realise their 'American Dream'.

There are a number of characters in this book and Katsu takes a number of them and makes them her focal points throughout which keeps the reader interested in what is happening through a number of different perpectives.  Whether you like them or not, they all play a vital role in the unfolding drama.

For anyone who is not familiar with the tale, let us say this - it does not have a happy ending.  It is not one of success and celebration at the end of the journey.  It is one of miscalculation, of fate and bad fortune for all involved.  You can google it to find out more or buy one of the many books on the subject itself, but I have to commend Katz for not making her tale too gruesome.  She hints at it, quite strongly, but never commits to those final depraved moments that we know occurred and whilst she could have done, I actually don't think that the book needed it.  She was right to hint, and then walk away and leave matters to the readers own imaginations.

This was a perfect read for the recent winter nights we have been having recently and I thanked my lucky stars that I have never had to experience anything like the homesteaders of America did.  

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Published by Orion
November 2017

Seven for a mystery that needs to be solved . . .

Editor Susan Ryland has worked with bestselling crime writer Alan Conway for years. Readers love his detective, Atticus P√ľnd, a celebrated solver of crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s.

But Conway's latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

Okay so I'll be totally honest here (and don't shoot me down) but I've never read anything by Anthony Horowitz before! I know, where have I been etc but I saw this at Christmas and my love for detective fiction had me popping it into my shopping basket at top speed, and with good reason it turns out.

This is a great old fashioned detective story, with a twist of course.  Alan Conway is a crime novelist and has just delivered what is to be his final Atticus Pund novel to his publishers as real life imitates the fictional and shortly afterwards our author is found dead at the foot of the tower of his glamorous country home.  But who could have killed him, or was it suicide?  His editor Susan Ryland becomes intrigued by what has happened to Alan, and even more so by the fact that the manuscript of his last book seems to have the final chapters missing from it - with Alan Conway dead, the publishing company need to get their hands on the missing pages, and fast!  Reading through the novel though, and meeting Alan's friends and family in real life, soon strikes a cord with Susan and she begins to suspect that his final novel is actually a lot more real than readers might suspect.  Turning through the pages, Susan discovers that there might be a few people who actually wanted Alan out of their lives - but the question is....whodunnit and can Susan safely find out or will her life be in danger too?

This book begins with Alan's final mystery and then moves into the 'real world' whereby Susan tries to find out what happened to her most acclaimed author.  Yes this is like a modern day Agatha Christie novel, or an Agatha Raisin story but I bloody loved it and if that sort of crime drama makes you happy then grab a copy of this, a cup of cocoa and settle down in front of the fire to while away the hours.  You won't be sorry that you did.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Love and Trouble

Love and Trouble by Claire Dederer
Published by Tinder Press
February 2018

You did everything right!

You made some friends you could count on.  You got a job. You found a mate, a really nice one, and you bought a house and had kids.  You didn't even think about it that much, you just did it.  You worked really hard, all the time.  You were a faithful wife and, ti's okay to say it out loud, an above-average mom.

And then one day it's as if a switch is flipped.  This day comes in April 2011.  The spring you are fourty-four years old.  You don't know it yet, but on this  day, your season in hell has begun.

As you sit there, you find that all of a sudden you can't stop thinking about her.  The girl you were.

This is Claire Dederer's second book, her first is Poser and is about her yoga journey, which I swiftly purchased on being sent this to review, and both books are about her life.  This is Claire's recount of what I guess could be described as her 'mid-life crisis'.  

She hits 44 and then begins to think - is this it?!  She has a great husband, great house, great job, great kids so why isn't she satisfied?  Why isn't this enough?  She starts to go back through her childhood diaries to try to make sense of what has come before and what she needs to be happy in the now. 

This is a blisteringly honest book and I am sure some of its reveals caused some emotional moments in her relationship with her husband.  There aren't many books by women talking about mid-life stuff, it's as if it doesn't exist in our female world.  But it does.  And it should be addressed, brutally and honestly as Claire Dederer does. As a woman of a certain age myself Love and Trouble does give one cause to ponder - is this it? 

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Published by Tinder Press
March 2018

It's 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York's Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they're about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.
Such prophecies could be dismissed as trickery and nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat and defy the 'knowledge' given to them that day - but it will shape the course of their lives forever.

So as the cover of the book says "If you knew the day you were going to die, how would you choose to live?" and this is pretty much what the story is about.  The four Gold siblings hear about a mysterious woman who lives in an apartment block who can, apparently, tell you the day that you are going to die.  Being young children (aged between 7 and 13) they are indeed fascinated by this, and ask around to try to find out where she lives so that they can visit her.  Armed with this information, and their saved pocket money, they pay her a visit and one by one learn of their fate.  

The Golds are a Jewish family made up of Saul, Gertie and their four children Daniel, Varya, Katya and Simon.  Each is very different from other and each follows a different path as they grow into adulthood.  Katya and Simon escape New York to move to San Francisco; Katya to persue her love of magic and Simon to follow a calling that he feels he cannot persue on America's east coast.  Daniel becomes a doctor involved with the American army and Varya is a scientist.  Despite their close bond, the visit to the fortune teller tears a hole in their relationship.  Simon will not reveal his date, only to say that it is 'early' and Varya cannot comprehend her lengthy sentence she has been given.  They rarely speak of it, but it haunts them all.

The Immortalists is broken up into sections where we as a reader focus on one sibling at a time - we follow their destiny and their fate as one by one they die when the fortune teller tells them they will.  Chloe Benjamin raises an interesting concept - if we knew how long we had in this lifetime, how would we live our lives, and would we do anything differently, or would it be like having a life sentence constantly hanging around us whereby we were just waiting for the day to arrive?  

This was a really great book and I loved the stories told.  My favourite sibling I think was Katya and I was sad when her story was up.  I predict only high praise for this book.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Anything you do say

Anything you do Say by Gillian McAllister
Published by Penguin Books
January 2018

It's the end of the night. You're walking home on your own.
Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Getting faster.
You're sure it's him - the man from the bar who wouldn't leave you alone.
You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor.
Now what?
Call 999
Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope your husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you.
Stay silent. You didn't mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. For ever.
Which will it be?

This book was recommended to me by a friend so I thought I would give it a whirl.  Whilst I don't think I loved it as much as she did, I did enjoy it and I think readers of my blog will to.  The synopsis is this - Joanna Olivia is in a bar with her best friend Laura.  She meets a man, has a bit of harmless flirting with him, moves on.  However the man in question is a bit more predatory than this, moves back for more interaction, grabs Joanna, is intimidating and sexual towards her. As a result Joanna and Laura leave and go their separate ways home.  Walking back through London to her flat containing husband Reuben, Joanna sees footsteps approaching behind her - red trainers that look identical to the ones worn by the guy in the bar.  He's running towards her now and getting nearer, Joanna is frightened he is going to attack her.  They come to a set of stairs and as he gets alongside her she reaches out a hand and pushes the man away.  He falls and lies at the bottom of the stairs motionless.   And this is where the book takes a twist - two different scenarios now pan out in front of the reader - the first where Joanna calls 999 and tells the operator what has happened, and the latter where Joanna turns around and returns home telling no one of what has occurred.  
It's an interesting read in that obviously both stories have different consequences throughout them in terms of how Joanna's life is led - in the first she is arrested for her actions, in the second she is constantly filled with guilt for what she did and this too has it's own effect on her behaviour.  Gillian McAllister does make you question what you would do in this situation because I guess you would aromatically call the police, but then what if that led to your arrest and possible later imprisonment?  Would you then wish that you could turn the clock back and walk away?  An interesting take on the human psyche and that actions have consequences that we must all face in one way or another.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x