Dry Bones by Sally Spencer

dry bonesWhen Charlie asks Jennie to investigate two bodies in the cellar of his Oxford university, he also asks her to keep it secret. Keeping it quiet is a crime, and not telling her friend on the police force puts two friendships in jeopardy too.

Charlie seems to have more secrets than a puzzle-box. Jennie starts to suspect his involvement in at least one of the deaths. Is he trying to distract her from the truth by sending her on wild goose chases?

The Jennie Redhead Mysteries are very similar to the Phryne Fisher Mysteries, but Jennie is lot more brash and confrontational. The difference is that the author duo that makes up the Sally Spencer also like to add a little controversy to their stories.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with the way the topic of homosexuality was approached from a historical point of view. In the mid 1940’s it was still considered a criminal offence, so the majority of men kept it a secret, as opposed to being openly gay in society. In 1967 sexual acts between two men over the age of 21 was decriminalised in England and Wales, however it still remained illegal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and or the Isle of Man.

Now, whilst there is always room for fictional interpretation and the rewriting of history, I do believe keeping it slightly more historically correct would have given the story a stronger sense of realism, instead of applying the overall laissez-faire feel of the story to this particular topic.

Personally I wish history had been more like the scenario of Dry Bones, in a sense that it is just as normal as heterosexual relationships, which is possibly what the authors were aiming for.

What I really enjoyed was the excellent description of the upper and lower classes, especially in relation to the academic world of Oxford. In the 20th century we saw the deconstruction of these antiquated ways of thinking, although I am sure one could argue that we are still seeing the last remnants of it in the UK government structure and political field. Kudos to the authors for the reality of the Upstairs/Downstairs scenarios and the descriptions of both the Great War and World War 2, which feature heavily in this story. The mistakes made by the entitled upper class officer ranks, and the fates of the lower class bullet fodder.

Overall Spencer delivers a good read with feisty and unusual characters.

Buy Dry Bones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @SallySpencerebk Author duo @AlanRustage & @LannaRustage or @severnhouse

Visit sallyspencer.com

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Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

anything you do sayFair warning *Possible Spoilers*

This is the kind of story which evokes a lot of emotions, controversy and discussion. So it probably isn’t any surprise that I want to have a really good chin-wag about it.

There are so many elements of this story that are hot topics at the moment. The systemic abuse of women, cross-race effect, the morality of her actions, why self-defence is negated in cases of severe force and the whole decision whether or not to act or help.

The behaviour Joanna encounters in the bar is fairly atypical unfortunately. The fact it happens so frequently probably explains her lack of response, which is in no way meant to sound like victim-blaming. Women have become so used to the systemic abuse that they tend to brush it off or ignore it, because making a big deal or speaking up can lead to escalations.

Joanna is on edge when she leaves the bar and almost expects Sadiq to follow her home, and of course this assumption of bad intentions is part of the problem. Then there is the issue of cross-race effect, ergo being able to recognise faces of ones own race easier and finding it more difficult to differentiate the faces of different races. This phenomenon causes a lot of misidentification when it comes to crimes.

Then there is the issue of self-defence, and I can guarantee the majority of people will think they have the right to defend themselves with any force necessary, however the truth is the legal situation isn’t as simple as it may seem. Reasonable force is the important factor and whether or not the victim believes they are in imminent danger, but it must be proportionate to the supposed danger. If the response causes injury or death it can be ruled as excessive force, ergo the victim then becomes the perpetrator.

The story follows Joanna in two scenarios simultaneously, the Joanna who reports the incident and the Joanna who tries to cover it up. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute, ask yourself what you would do in the same set of circumstances. Would you leave, watch him die, call for help or pretend it never happened at all?

This book is an excellent read because it challenges our perception of this event and possible scenarios we might encounter. I think the foremost question on my mind, whilst reading this story, was what I would do in the same situation. The answer to that particular question will be different for every single one of us and based on our own frame of references.

McAllister likes to present readers with complex characters and the kind of situations that are neither black or white. The grey areas become murky and distorted, which is what makes her stories so compelling.

Buy Anything You Do Say at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @GillianMAuthor

Visit gillianmcallister.com

Read Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy

Fatal MasqueradeThe cosy mystery is often delegated to the inconsequential, fluffy and comfortable read shelf. It simply isn’t given its dues. It is actually a really popular sub-genre of the crime and mystery genre.

Not everyone wants to read brutal psychological stories that mess with your head and make your little grey cells ask for a break, although admittedly I love those a lot.

Some readers want the eloquence and eccentricities of Christie-like characters combined with the quirky scenarios of Beaton, witty reads that leave you with a smile.

Conroy delivers the kind of characters you remember and enjoy. An ode to Tuppence and Tommy, but perhaps a little less suave and with a lot more cheek.

In this fourth book in the Lady Alkmene Mystery series, the reader is spoilt with choices of possible culprits, which means the amateur detectives have to work a lot harder to discover who did the deed.

Lady Alkmene accompanies her friend to a masquerade ball, which becomes a wee bit more serious when a dead body turns up and the hostess and her family become the main suspects.

If you’re looking for a bit of mystery, a dead body now and again, and a set of colourful characters then you should give Conroy a try.

Buy Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Rubies in the Roses by Vivian Conroy

Follow @VivWrites

Blog-Tour: House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

spines

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for the fabulous House of Spines by Michael J. Malone. Be prepared to be drawn in by this eerie mystery and you may even start to wonder about reality, dreams and hallucinations.What is real and what is taking place in his darkest corners of his mind?

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Follow @michaelJmalone1 on Twitter or facebook.com/themichaeljmalonepage

Visit mjmink.wordpress.com

Buy The House of Spines

About the book

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman…

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

Buy The House of Spines

Review

Imagine not only inheriting a whole house and the kind of library every bookworm dreams of, imagine inheriting a lifetime of secrets and lies too.

Ran seems to be pleased, and yet at the same time unnerved by Newton Hall. The question is whether his gut instinct is warning him about some danger in the house or are his mental health issues starting to reappear now that he is off his medication. Instead of enjoying being the man of the manor he seems to be looking over his shoulder and jumping at shadows.

I’m just saying I wouldn’t be displeased if someone decided to give me a huge house with a massive library filled with books. I wouldn’t mind putting up with all the weird spooky stuff, the passive-aggressive relatives and the leftover staff from the Adams Family.

Newton Hall has secrets hidden in the walls and in the mirrors. The kind of secrets that haunt and torture people, especially the guilty. Ran is starting to unravel the mysteries or are they starting to slowly unravel him. He is losing his grip on reality, drifting back and forth from moments of lucidity and nightmare scenarios.

Mental health issues play a pivotal role in the plot, which is done in a subtle and a realistic way. The author manages to portray the illness and the way society, and loved ones react to the illness. The constant suspicion, doubt and lack of trust is a constant factor on both sides.

Malone invites the reader into his little shop of horrors and let’s them wrestle with the question of whether the nightmare is real or just the meanderings of a sick man. House of Spines may have a gothic feel to it, but it also has the interesting aura of a Hammer Horror. Some readers might not remember Hammer, however they were renowned for evoking an eerie and haunting sense of horror. The kind of hair on the back of your neck creepy you never quite forget.

The house will drag you in and may not let you go again, well at least not until she gets what she wants.

Buy House of Spines at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Visit orendabooks.co.uk  Follow @OrendaBooks

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

the word is murderIf you have read the Magpie Murders by Horowitz then this book won’t seem at all bizarre or unusual. He is an author who likes to think outside the box. His plots are wee bit like Conan Doyle does Schrödinger’s Cat in the form of a murder mystery. While I’m on the subject it is worth mentioning that in 2011 the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle gave Horowitz the official endorsement to write a continuation of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Word is Murder more or less features Anthony Horowitz as himself in the main role. It is an interesting way to approach a crime story. I’m sure readers will start to wonder how much is fiction and how much of the actual crime story is fact.

It isn’t until Horowitz actually mentions a few of his accolades that you realise just how accomplished and successful he is. In this scenario his diminishes his success, and plays with the fact he has prominent contacts.

A woman walks into a funeral parlour to plan and arrange her own funeral, and a few hours later she is ready to use the coffin she just bought. Is it just a huge coincidence or did someone end her life prematurely? Well the cord around her neck speaks volumes.

Horowitz is unaware of this particular event until an ex-police detective asks him to write a book about the murder with himself starring as the savvy detective. Horowitz finds it hard to work with this eccentric, obstinate and yet very observant detective, however he can’t help but be pulled into the intriguing story that unfolds in front of him. Hawthorne is like a grumpy Columbo with Sherlock’s deductive skills.

I enjoyed it, just like I really enjoyed the Magpie Murders, because the author isn’t afraid to mix it up and challenge his readers. Thinking outside of the crime and mystery schemata to create unusual and yet captivating reads. The word is murder, but in this case the word is also Horowitz and Hawthorne are the new Watson and Sherlock.

Buy The Word is Murder at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AnthonyHorowitz  @penguinrandom

Visit anthonyhorowitz.com

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

did you see melodyI do appreciate a story with a few hard facts or home-truths.The only downside is that I tend to want to go on about it when an author makes a particularly valid point.

We live in an era where the majority of media outlets is no longer focused on reporting the truth or any semblance of it. Instead fiction becomes fact, fame and notoriety are more important than reporting what really happened. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of celebrity.

The 21st century has seen the rise of TV showmen and women, as opposed to the revered journalists of the 20th century. Nancy Grace is a great example of this gaudy and dangerous phenomenon, and one that is mentioned in the story.

The character of Bonnie Juno is based on the Nancy Grace types of sensationalistic journalism. The facts are twisted to suit the narrative of whomever they have picked to be the target of the day. Interviews become as twisted as twizzlers and as sticky as a fly trap.

In this scenario the guilty party is discovered and proven guilty by trial via public opinion. In the end it doesn’t matter whether there isn’t enough evidence to prove they did it, because the TV viewers have already been told they are guilty. This anything but objective opinion continues on through to the courtroom.

Cara has decided to escape reality and the uncomfortable stress at home by treating herself to a few days in a five star spa hotel in the US. The tired and upset Cara accidentally stumbles upon a man and young girl, only to find out the next day that the young girl in question has been dead for quite a few years. Did she imagine it, is someone having a laugh or is it just a case of mistaken identity? Did she see Melody?

What emerges from this one simple question is a myriad of crimes and even more unanswered questions. Guilt isn’t a clear concept in this story. Would you commit a crime to prevent another? Do you believe the court of public opinion instead of checking all the available facts? Do two wrongs make a right?

I’m sure this story will make readers wonder about the choices they would make if confronted with the same situation. Begs the question whether, in a world full of police states and dictatorships, some of us have to be strong enough to be vigilantes, because the justice systems fails victims on a regular basis.

It’s a read that gives plenty of food for thought.

Buy Did you see Melody at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @sophiehannahCB1 @Hodderbooks

Visit sophiehannah.com #ISawMelody

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase

audrey wildeEve Chase has a thing for old houses and families, so it isn’t a surprise that this story has Applecote Manor smack bang in the middle of the plot. Everything is woven around the families who inhabit or used to inhabit this house.

Chase creates a very nostalgic atmosphere, which is part of the charm of this book. The story wanders from past to present, and the chapters in the past are especially good. They evoke a sense of familiarity, warmth and belonging. The reader basks in the sun next to the river and feels the cool water as the girls swim in the river.

Throughout the book there is a sense of a presence watching over every event and word. Audrey Wilde is as much a part of the story, as her disappearance is.

Although this is in every sense of the word a mystery it is also a book about identity and coming of age. It is also a story about non-typical families. The patchwork family of the present is also haunted by their very own personal ghost. In fact the ghosts need to be laid to rest for both families to finally get some peace.

One day Audrey Wilde suddenly vanishes into thin air, and the mystery of her disappearance is something that her cousin Margot never really gets over. At a time when everyone else has accepted the possibility they may never find out the truth, Margot is almost obsessed with discovering what happened to her.

I loved the feel of this story, especially everything about Margot and her sisters. I thought that element of the story was strong enough for the plot without adding Jessie and her family to the mix. I also thought it was intriguing how the crime element never overshadowed the rest of the story, despite it being the thread that held everything together.

The truth isn’t pretty at all, and perhaps that cold breath of brutality should have changed the whole feeling of the story, but it didn’t. It remains a charming tale until the end.

Buy The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @evepchase @MichaelJBooks