Old Friends and Home Cooked Meals

‘Bruno’s Challenges and Other Dordogne Tales’ by Martin Walker

A bumper collection of delightful stories featuring Bruno, Chief of Police and France’s favourite cop, all set in the beautiful Dordogne valley and the ravishing Perigord region of the south west. Here is a landscape of meandering rivers with medieval castles overlooking their banks, of lush hillsides and spreading vineyards, of delicious local wines and world renowned cuisine.

With titles like ‘The Chocolate War’; ‘The Birthday Lunch’; ‘Oystercatcher’; ‘A Market Tale’ and ‘Fifty Million Bubbles’, you may be sure that champagne and gastronomy will feature as well as cosy crime in ‘Dangerous Vacation’. Bruno strides through these tales, staying calm. settling local disputes and keeping safe his beloved town of St Denis.

Only on one occasion does he panic: in ‘Bruno’s Challenge’, his friend Ivan, proprietor and chef of the town’s popular eatery, suddenly collapses on the eve of a large anniversary dinner, and he asks Bruno to take over the restaurant. After a few protests followed by some deep breaths, the inimitable Bruno meets his challenge and saves the day. (Synopsis courtesy of Quercus Books)
https://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/titles/martin-walker/brunos-challenge-other-dordogne-tales/9781529418125

To be honest, I’m pretty firmly on the record as a fan of Martin Walker and his Bruno novels, so this is not exactly going to be impartial criticism.

https://pajnewman.com/2021/05/27/a-warm-heart-for-a-cold-case/

In essence, I love them. Whenever Walker launches his noble rugby-playing, cuisine-loving, unlucky-in-love village policeman on the literary world, I’m buying it and I am ready to be transported to the Perigord, sign me up and destination added to the bucket list thank you very much.

Interestingly, what I do not like is short stories. Not sure why; it’s a prejudice like an aversion to sci-fi or the ballet. I can understand that these things might have appeal, but I kind of feel like it’s not for me.

Except, these are for me. I’d actually purchased the festive story, Le Père Noël, previously as a Kindle single and it bears re-reading and is a lovely showcase for Bruno’s generosity of spirit which is at the heart of this series of stories.

The other delight of this collection of stories are two-fold. Firstly, the gang’s (nearly) all here: Pamela, the Mad Englishwoman – who is neither mad nor English which is charming as ever – Isabelle, the itch Bruno can never scratch, Florence, the schoolteacher who Bruno saved and installed at the local école and who is the woman the fans think he should end up with. Jack Crimson, retired intelligence agent assisting Bruno as he encounters various dangers, and his daughter Miranda who now works with Pamela and the horses. Finally, local doctor Fabiola and her partner Gilles, late of Paris Match and Sarajevo where he initially met our war hero Bruno, are all present and correct and often eating.

Secondly, there is the regional cuisine of the Perigord. Walker, Bruno and his fictional friends are all dedicated to these regional delicacies: as are Walker’s daughters Kate and Fanny who appear to be instrumental in the cookbook which exists (only in German at the moment, although I’ve heard tell of an English language translation on the horizon). It is this passion which sees stories of cooking flood through this collection like flavours layered in a well-made Cassoulet.

And so I have been converted to the short story as a form, at least when it brings my old fictional friends a-calling and leaves me sated for their company but hungry for dinner.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529418125&tag=hachetteuk-21

Apple: http://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/isbn9781529418125?app=music&at=10lwkR

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/bruno-s-challenge-other-dordogne-tales/9781529418101

Google: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9781529418125&c=books

Kobo: http://kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781529418125

EBook.com: http://www.ebooks.com/aff.asp?AID=42562&term=9781529418125&CreditorID:6500

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/brunos-challenge-and-other-dordogne-tales/martin-walker/9781529418101

Martin Walker

After a long career of working in international journalism and for think tanks, Martin Walker now gardens, cooks, explores vineyards, writes, travels, and has never been more busy. He divides his time between Washington, D.C., and the Dordogne. You can find more about Walker at his website, http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com/about-the-author.html

Murder and Mayhem Ideal for the Time of Year

‘Murder at the Abbey’ by Frances Evesham

The Brand NEW instalment in the bestselling Exham-on-Sea series.

An unsolved murder echoes down the corridors of Cleeve Abbey for years.

The Exham-on-Sea’s History Society’s annual summer picnic comes to an abrupt end when human bones are discovered in Washford River, beside historic Cleeve Abbey.

Thrilled to find evidence of a possible centuries-old murder mystery, the members of the society organise a ghost-hunting night in the ruins of Cleeve Abbey, despite amateur sleuth Libby Forest’s reservations.

Libby is a woman of many talents, a baker, chocolatier, even a reluctant sleuth, but she’s no fan of the supernatural and her doubts are justified when a friend is attacked under cover of darkness at the ghost-hunt.

Distressed and angry, Libby sets out with her new husband Max and their two dogs Bear and Shipley to uncover the connection between the murder of a sixteenth century monk and a present-day attack in picturesque Somerset.

With friends and neighbours as suspects, Libby and Max close in on the culprit only to find that others are still in danger.

There’s no time to lose as the sins of the past threaten lives in the community.

Murder at the Abbey is the eighth in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries from the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3BJyYn1

Sometimes in one’s reading life, you just want something which acts like hot chocolate on a cold autumn afternoon. I’m new to the world of Frances Evesham’s Exham-on-Sea Murder Mystery series, but I’m willing to say, her stories fit the bill.

Considering there are now seven previous instalments I need to catch up with, it is not a surprise that the characters feel comfortable in each other’s company but what Evesham does capture so well is the niggling, internecine rivalries and petty irritations which can so blight village life.

It seems to be the season for duel aspect narratives. Coincidentally, this week I was reviewing another novel where the events ran along two timelines – https://pajnewman.com/2021/11/09/jesus-only-had-12-and-one-of-those-was-a-double/ – and rewatching the Wench is Dead episode of perennial where the ailing detective sets out to solve a Victorian murder.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this was Libby’s determination to discount the supernatural. Firstly, I have a deep rooted prejudice against those type of ghost stories on the grounds it’s a narrative cop out and secondly, setting her up as the hard bitten rationalist allows us to enjoy her intellectually outpacing her mentally sluggish neighbours.

‘Murder at the Abbey’ is a fast moving novel with charming settings and eccentric characters in the best traditions of the cozy crime genre. Be sure to sup it down with some hot chocolate on a chill evening.

Author Bio – Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. Boldwood has republished the complete series. Frances has also started a new cosy crime series set in rural Herefordshire, the first of which was published in June 2020.


Social Media Links – 
 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/frances.evesham.writer/

Twitter https://twitter.com/francesevesham  

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/francesevesham/

Newsletter Sign Up Link https://bit.ly/FrancesEveshamSignUp  

Bookbub profile https://www.bookbub.com/authors/frances-evesham  

https://www.instagram.com/bookandtonic/

“Jesus Only Had 12 and One of Those Was a Double…”

‘Judas 62’ by Charles Cumming

A spy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth…

1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.

An old enemy looking for revenge…

2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on… (Synopsis courtesy of Harper Collins)

For some time, Charles Cumming has been one of the best working spy writer’s today. Alongside Simon Conway and Mick Herron, he has been producing first-rate work in novels such as Typhoon, Trinity Six and his Thomas Kell trilogy (‘A Foreign Country’, ‘A Colder War’ and ‘A Divided Spy’)

It has always struck me as unfair for these writers to be consistently referenced alongside John Le Carre – a writer whom I hold in the highest regard. Whilst Cumming has been one of our best for 20 years, Le Carre was obviously a genre defining author whose very language of espionage has entered their trade. Now THAT is a legacy.

Last year’s ‘Box 88’ was a delight. It was spy ficiton as Proust, Cumming luxuriating in the school days of his lead character and (apparently) mining his own biography to weave a tapestry of a period as evocatively rendered as a tea soaked madeleine. Ironically, it was also the novel which arguably brought Cumming closest to Le Carre territory.

‘Box 88’, intercutting as it did Lachlan Kite’s present day problems as a team of skilled operatives invade and abduct his wife, with his recruitment into the shadowy organisation Box, has echoes of Le Carre’s ‘A Perfect Spy’. (‘A Perfect Spy’ is, lest anyone forget, the work labelled by no less an authority than Phillip Roth as, “the best English novel since the war” so this is far from a criticism.  

As much as I enjoyed ‘Box 88’, the structure was – if anything – the biggest issue with it. It was fairly obviously the beginning of a series and this meant that neither the story set in the 1980s nor that of the contemporary events really had an opportunity to ratchet up the tension. Kite obviously survived in the flashback, he was almost certain to survive in the present too.

‘Judas 62’ is obviously going to suffer from the same thing. But, here, Cumming avoids the trap by slightly altering the structure. We are reintroduced to Kite as Covid lockdowns are making espionage even more tricky and Box are working as a skeleton crew. Instead of then intercutting the narrative every other chapter, here Cumming chooses to tell one story then the other. Although we know Kite is not going to peg out any time soon, there is a greater tension and some fantastically palm-sweat inducing descriptions of his operation and the harrowing fall out which follows.

Few people can write such convincing action and conjure a world so effectively as Cumming. His ability to render the mundane – WhatsApp conversations, a cricket match –  and contrast with the high stakes of the missions of his characters.

There are few writers as adept at creating characters you care about and tension on a minute by minute basis as Cummings and, in Lachlan Kite, he has a flawed hero of self awareness and a lorry load of festering regrets.

‘Judas 62’ is a triumph of a novel and I look forward to the third instalment as soon as I can get my hands on it. This is vintage Cummings and I just hope he has ready access to the French patisserie and the old pot of tea if he’s going to use any more of remembrance of things past.

Purchase Links

Amazon: http://ads.harpercollins.co.uk/hcuk?isbn=9780008363468&retailer=amazon

Blackwells: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9780008363468

Bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1153/9780008363468

Foyles: http://ads.harpercollins.co.uk/hcuk?isbn=9780008363468&retailer=foyles

Waterstones: https://www.awin1.com/cread.php?awinmid=3787&awinaffid=802343&ued=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.waterstones.com%2Fbook%2F9780008363468

Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He was educated at Eton and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 with First Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as “the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off”. In the summer of 1995, Charles was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). A year later he moved to Montreal where he began working on a novel based on his experiences with MI6. A Spy By Nature was published in the UK in 2001. (Biography courtesy of Harper Collins)

50 Shades of Monarch of the Glen

‘Highland Games’ by Evie Alexander

A fiery heroine, a Scottish god, a cabin, a castle, and enough heat to warm the coldest Scottish winter…

Highland Games is an unputdownable, enemies-to-lovers, romantic comedy, with sparkle and sizzle and a guaranteed happy ending. This sexy, witty, debut from Evie Alexander will have you laughing, swooning, and staying up way past your bedtime…

Perfect for fans of Sally ThorneTalia Hibbert, Sophie Kinsella, and Helen Hoang. If you’re looking for a riotous romantic comedy with plenty of heat, then Highland Games is for you!

♥♥♥ Welcome to Kinloch, and the hottest winter Scotland’s ever seen. ♥♥♥

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life.

Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out.

Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down.

Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving.

Let the games begin…

Some books come with a bit of a health warning for me as a reader. I am a book blogger based in the Highlands – coincidentally located about an hour of Inverness as is the setting for this novel.

So, when Evie Alexander’s novel came across my door I was curious to see how she was going to handle the Englishwoman incoming to the Highlands – because, spoiler alert, incomers are not always universally welcomed up here.

Again, I should know, I am one. And there are plenty of my fellow compatriots who would do well to learn to shut their yaps.

So, aside from spending a vast amount of time trying to geolocate Alexander’s model for the village of Kinloch (unsuccessfully, you know I think this might be fiction?) I can tell you that Highland Games is a delight. Oh and that Zoe is exactly the sort of heroine who would be welcomed in the north.

Yes, she has the unrealistic expectations of how much it will cost to do up her dilapidated semi-bothy hovel that many do, but she also wants to fit in and respects the people and the location.

Alexander captures beautifully the warmth of Highland hospitality and the near food coma a visit to a local family can induce. She also captures something of the sadness of many of the country estates which are falling to wrack and ruin.

Obviously, what she is also does is weave a cinematic will-they/they-definitely-will-but-it’s-just-a-matter-of-time-until-they-get-over-themselves romance between free spirited Zoe and preposterously hunky, good with his hands – in every sense – Rory.

Honestly, the description was like looking in a mirror. We all look like that up here.

‘Highland Games’ does have the same issue which novels of this form and genre have: in order to keep the protagonists away from jumping on each other, both have to be incapable of just saying how they feel and this can grow increasingly implausible. Alexander navigates this with the very effective solution of including a hefty dollop of slapstick comedy which is a delight.

Overall, ‘Highland Games’ is a debut of astonishing assuredness and I really believe that Evie Alexander will return with more novels which I hope will have the same lightness of touch, smoothly flowing dialogue and, with any luck, bucolic Highland setting.

Pre-order Link – https://amzn.to/3la37GY

Author Bio

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humour. She takes a method approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasising about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West country with her family.

Website: https://eviealexanderauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eviealexanderauthor

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/eviealexanderauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Evie_author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21611777.Evie_Alexander

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/evie-alexander

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/eviealexanderauthor/

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Highland Games, Shortbread and more… (Open to UK Only)

Prize is a signed copy of Highland Games, Exclusive postcard and bookmark, Personalised heart & Shortbread

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email.

If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information.

This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Nothing Stale About These Remains

‘The Dark Remains’ by Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney

If the truth’s in the shadows, get out of the light …

Lawyer Bobby Carter did a lot of work for the wrong type of people. Now he’s dead and it was no accident. Besides a distraught family and a heap of powerful friends, Carter’s left behind his share of enemies. So, who dealt the fatal blow?

DC Jack Laidlaw’s reputation precedes him. He’s not a team player, but he’s got a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets. His boss chalks the violence up to the usual rivalries, but is it that simple? As two Glasgow gangs go to war, Laidlaw needs to find out who got Carter before the whole city explodes.

William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw books changed the face of crime fiction. When he died in 2015, he left half a handwritten manuscript of Laidlaw’s first case. Now, Ian Rankin is back to finish what McIlvanney started. In The Dark Remains, these two iconic authors bring to life the criminal world of 1970s Glasgow, and Laidlaw’s relentless quest for truth. (Synopsis courtesy of Canongate)

Ok, I’m going to start with a caveat: never have I been more crabbit about a book review than this one.

As a Scotland-based book blogger, I have never chased harder, nor gone through so many channels or pulled as many puny strings as I have at my feeble disposal (short of messaging Rankin himself directly on social media. That just seemed icky) than I did when trying to get hold of an advanced copy of this book.

After all, I’m a middle aged white guy with a blog and I’m definitely in the top six million people in Scotland who blog about books. Don’t they know who I am?

No, they don’t. And I didn’t get a copy. And I was gutted. ‘Bugger them,’ I thought. I’m sure not having a review from me will decimate sales.

But it’s Ian Rankin. And William McIlvanney. And the audiobook is read by Brian Cox.

Ok, three of Scotland’s finest united? I crumpled like a gangster under a Jack Laidlaw interrogation.

Rankin is, in my irrelevant opinion, the best crime writer working today and joins a tiny list of authors who get bought no matter what. I have written about my admiration of Rankin’s Rebus series elsewhere, but here it bears repeating: he’s a writer who’s work I believe is going to be read in hundreds of years and outlive the ridiculous “literary” fiction which does nothing to accurately reflect its era and is dull to boot.

So, the best of the best, polishing off the original and the best in William McIlvanney.

The first piece of close reading (comprehension for those not in Scotland or of a certain vintage) I taught was an extract from ‘Laidlaw’. To this day, that novel remains a revelation in the use of simile and metaphor and the prose crackles with impactful imagery.

In these types of literary Frankensteins, it’s always tempting to spend a chunk of the novel trying to spot the joins.

The references to contemporary politics, the issues with Nixon and the creeping Americanisation of Scotland feels Rankinesqe.

Metaphors like “a hole deep enough to hold a coffin,” feels like vintage McIlvanney. I suspect this is the sort of case where I’m wrong on both counts.

But, mainly, who cares? This is the godfather being helped to posthumous glory by the pupil who became the master.

If I have a criticism, it’s actually with the production of the audiobook. The lack of spacing between chapter and even paragraph breaks means that it sounds like Cox has forgotten the words and is being rushed to catch up.

But this is a trifle and his performance is still excellent.

So, I’m pleased that I got over my mardy response to my rejections. Because this is the best in the business at the top of their game.

Highly, highly recommended.

Purchase Links

Bookshop.org

Waterstones

Authors

Ian Rankin

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature.

After university and before his success with his Rebus novels, Ian had a number of jobs including working as a grape-picker, a swineherd, a journalist for a hi-fi magazine, and a taxman. Following his marriage in 1986, he lived briefly in London where he worked at the National Folktale Centre, followed by a short time living in France, before returning to Edinburgh.

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar Award for Resurrection Men. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and Germany’s Deutscher Krimipreis.

Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Hull, Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh as well as The Open University. In 2019, he donated his archive of over 50 boxes of manuscripts, letters and paperwork to the National Library of Scotland.

Ian has received an OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his wife and two sons. (Biography courtesy of Hachette)

William McIlvanney

Photo by Ian Atkinson, courtesy of http://www.canongate.co.uk

William McIlvanney’s first novel, Remedy is None, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and with Docherty he won the Whitbread Award for Fiction. Laidlaw and The Papers of Tony Veitch both gained Silver Daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association. Strange Loyalties, the third in the Detective Laidlaw trilogy, won the Glasgow Herald’s People’s Prize. He died in December 2015. (Biography courtesy of Canongate)

Inheritances and Italian Amore

‘A Little Piece of Paradise’ by TA Williams

The inheritance of a lifetime… with a catch

When Sophie’s uncle leaves her a castle in the Italian Riviera in his will, she can’t believe her luck. The catch? She and her estranged sister, Rachel, must live there together for three months in order to inherit it.  

Having worked in Rome for four years, Sophie’s excited to revisit to Italy, even if it reignites memories of a cheating ex who soon learns of her return and wants to rekindle their spark. Sophie realises that distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder – but for her friend back home, Chris, who she discovers is more to her than just a friend.

With the clock ticking, can Sophie and Rachel stick it out and heal old wounds, or are the sisters destined to go their own way at the end of the three months? And does Chris feel the same way about Sophie as she does for him?

A beautiful story of romance and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Alex Brown and Lucy Coleman.

Regular readers of this blog (Oh, so you’re the one) will know that I like a nice escapist romance novel from time to time. I understand that as a man, demographically, this puts me outside the realm of the usual purchasers of such literature.

However, there is clearly at least one other fan of the genre in author TA Williams. Here, Williams has taken a fairly well trodden path – the inheritance with the millstone bequest attached – and added in the tantalising reward of an Italian villa worth over a million Euros.

The catch? Being shackled to an estranged sister for three months (shackled metaphorically, rather than literally. This becomes a very different novel if not.)

As with my favourite novels from this genre, the food is the described in great detail, the wine as enchanting as the scenery and love affairs flare up and create havoc as the principle characters navigate this taxing situation.

Between the food, the wine, the amore and the villa, this is a novel to charm the reader and its 300-odd pages zip by. Sometimes the dialogue can read as a little stilted, especially in the early chapters where the need for exposition can make some of the characters sound a little wooden, but this is a minor quibble in a novel of enormous charm and lightness of touch. Also, any novel with a character as fully rounded and obviously loved as Jeeves the Labrador is a delight and can do no wrong!

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09F5QJQDZ

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09F5QJQDZ

Author Bio – I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing escapist romance is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.

Social Media Links –

Website: www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/tawilliamsbooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks/

Life in the Old Diamond Dogs Yet

‘The Man Who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can the Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them? (Synopsis courtesy of http://www.Penguin.co.uk)

I’m not sure when I have enjoyed a novel more than I enjoyed Richard Osman’s debut, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’. That story was convoluted, sure, but it nipped along, the characters were charming and there was a frothy light touch like a glass of cooled Pimms on a summer’s afternoon.

What Osman has here managed to do, is navigate the difficult second album. He had left himself with some work to be done: the first book had bodies dropping like ‘The Wire’-era Baltimore, a killer revealed to be a beloved character and now the challenge becomes: do it again. But, you know, better.

Well, I’m delighted to say that he has. Here, Osman takes us inside Elizabeth’s murky past – her role with the Security Services, her rakish ex-husband and the way her history keeps peeking into her present.

There are less characters than in the whirlwind original outing but Douglas is joined by hopeless waitress Poppy, who may not be all she seems, as well local drug Queen pin, Connie Johnson and her ascendancy and a nasty little character called Ryan Baird. This wee hoodlum is, to my mind, one of the few people in Osman’s fiction who I would happily see shot in the face by Elizabeth from point blank range.

‘The Man Who Died Twice’ is a charming romp covering treasure hunts for twenty million pounds worth of diamonds, the exact way to disguise the exact identify of a body and the reason why MI:5 use a safe house in Godalming.

I am well aware that there are readers who dislike Osman’s work because he is famous to begin with. Others dislike the fact he does not write serious Dostoeveskian meditations on the nature of crime. But I find his writing charming, safe and as entertaining as an afternoon cup of tea at your nan’s house and I thank him for it.

Also, I listened to both the original and the sequel in audiobook form read by Lesley Manville. I listened on long car rides alongside a mother who has dementia and doesn’t take that much pleasure in long form stories these days. Both Manville’s performance and Osman’s writing delighted her, amused her and kept her entertained and, for that, they were cheap at twice the price and I shall be ever grateful to them for their work.

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/141792/richard-osman.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MrRichardOsman

Twitter: @richardosman

If Downton Did Homicide…

‘Murder At The House On The Hill’ by Victoria Walters

Once Upon A Crime…

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother Jane Hunter run the Dedley Endings Bookshop, selling crime, thriller and mystery books, in a small, quiet Cotswold village where nothing ever happens…

That is, until the wealthy and reclusive Roth family open up their mansion for the first time in twenty years, inviting the people of Dedley End to a lavish engagement party.

While everyone is thrilled to finally look around the mansion on the hill, the festivities are quickly cut short when beautiful Lucy, recently married to young Harry Roth, is found dead after being pushed over the first-floor balustrade.

But who among the guests could have been capable of her murder – and why?

Nancy and Jane decide to investigate – after all, not only do they own a crime themed bookshop, they were also both named after famous literary detectives – but soon wonder if they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Especially when it seems the killer has worked out that they’re hot on their heels…

Can they catch the murderer before the murderer catches up with them? Or will there be a deadly ending to this story?

Join the unlikeliest detective duo for the killer opener of The Dedley End Mysteries series, by a major voice in women’s fiction.

In my quiet moments, often when I am standing in front of a class of bored teenagers failing to inspire them to anything other than sleep, I can be found staring out of the window, dreaming of my perfect bookshop.

It will be Dickensian in its untidiness. Wobbling piles of books will adorn the floors, the steps, the  shelves will be three deep with paperbacks. You will need to rummage for your trophies and, when you find them, you will celebrate like you’ve won the cup final.

There will be coffee and a bookshop dog. It will have battered leather armchairs and you will be allowed to sit in the armchairs, reading the books and the smell of musty books will mingle with the autumnal damp and freshly brewed coffee and you will be content.

More importantly, so will I.

Into this particularly vivid daydream which I can, in no way, finance, waltzes Victoria Walters and her charming opening instalment in ‘The Dedley End Mysteries’ series, Murder at the House on the Hill.

Walters introduces us to Jane and Nancy – channelling her literary influences perhaps? – and Charlie, the bookshop beagle. I love it – it is a novel which has pinched my dreams and populated them with capable women solving crimes in a picturesque village setting. What’s not to like?

Fans of Fiona Leitch and Martin Walker should be prepared to be bowled over by this charming little tale of murder up at the big house.

A cozy homicide of delight. I look forward to book two!

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3yJqSKk

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2SzAN4h

Apple: https://apple.co/3yJGkWE

Author Bio – Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Find out more about Victoria by following on Instagram at @vickyjwalters,

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters 

She blogs at https://www.victoria-writes.com/.

Love Amongst the Lourve – and the Pigeons

‘Falling in Louvre’ by Fiona Leitch

‘A heartfelt, funny and romantic caper – a mashup masterpiece!’ – Sandy Barker, author of ‘That Night in Paris’.

Bertrand is King of the Pigeons

Unofficially. From his perch atop a gargoyle on Notre Dame cathedral, he surveys his kingdom. He sees Sylvie Cloutier, art lover and ex-antiques dealer, making dinner for her bullying husband Henri, trapped in their loveless marriage like a bird in a gilded cage. He sees security guard, hopeless romantic and bookworm Philippe Moreau cycling through the streets of Paris in his crumpled uniform, late (again) for his night shift at the museum.

When Sylvie begs her husband to let her go to work, he gets her a job as an evening cleaner at the Louvre. He thinks such a menial position will dispel any ideas about independence she might have, but his plan backfires when she falls in love with kind, gentle Philippe. They decide to run away together, but theres a major problem: neither of them has any money.

One stormy night in the Louvre, the answer to their prayers falls into their lapBut is it really the solution, or just another, even bigger problem?

What follows is a romantic, wistful but madcap adventure through (and under) the city of lights, involving a stolen painting, an art heist in reverse, and Eric Cantona. Will love find a way?

I’ve previously reviewed a couple of Fiona Leitch’s novels and I was quietly swept away by her lightness of touch and her soufflé light tales of murders in small English villages.

Here, Leitch crosses the Channel and lands us in the capital of love. ‘Falling in Lourve’ is a switch of pace to a light romantic comedy but it channels another writer I am a big fan of, Peter Mayle.

The caper aspect is well handled and the horrible husband a believeable enough turd to make you root for Sylvie and Philippe to succeed in their madcap adventure.

This is a novel designed for holiday reading and, as the nights draw in, I can only hope that this acts as beacon of light relief in our darkening days

Purchase Link – mybook.to/Louvre

Author Bio Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’.

After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her debut novel, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant scheme finalists, and her bestselling cosy mystery series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, is published by One More Chapter/HarperCollins.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/fionakleitch

https://www.instagram.com/leitchfiona/

www.fionaleitch.com

A Lightness of Touch for A Lethal Arrogance

‘A Lethal Arrogance-An Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Book 3’ by D.S Lang

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

I’m not one for wishing I lived in another place and time. For all of the horrors of this world, I’ll take the advancements in medication, standard of living and ease of convenience of the 21st century over the rationing, rickets and shortened life expectancy of the mid-20th century or the powdered wigs and tights of the 19th.

But, if pushed, I would have certainly enjoyed a shot at the Jazz Age. Cocktails, tennis and parties – yeah, I’d have put my back into that particular set of activities.

And it is into this milieu that we Arabellla Stewart and her Scottish business partner and honorary grandfather, Mac MacLendon. Joined by her chum Jax Hastings, the trio fly through the period hunting Cadillacs which plunged into ravines in the best spirit of Raymond Chandler and set out to prove there are dastardly deeds afoot in the best spirit of Lord Peter Wimsey.

This is a pacey, well written crime story of the cozy variety: the dialogue crisp and well written, the plotting tight and convincing and the settings rendered for the reader in clear fashion. It has a lightness of touch to delight the reader.

There are some things which can trip a UK-based reader up. The description of Ballantyne as a resort that has been in the family for 30 years is confusing as this is seen as a long time, whereas this is just about enough time in this country not to be frowned at as a dangerous stranger. Additionally, Jax tends to be a female name which lead to the introduction of that character (or reintroduction as this is Book 3) a small measure of confusion.

But these are mere trifling quibbles which do nothing to take away the joire de verve of the piece and add attractive details to its US setting.

Overall, a very enjoyable read!

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

D.S. Lang, a native Ohioan, has been making up stories since she was a little girl, and she still is! Along the way, she studied English and social studies as an undergrad. After graduate school, she went on to teach government and American history in high school. She also taught English at the junior high, high school, and college levels. In addition, she has worked as a program coordinator, golf shop manager, and online tutor.

Now, she spends much of her time reading, researching, and writing. Most recently, she has delved into the Great War era and the years immediately after it. Her Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Series was inspired by her Great Uncle Brice who served in the American Expeditionary Force during World War One, and by her love of historical mysteries. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family and friends, including her dog Izzy.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Author-DS-Lang-106722091331345