Hunting A Portrait By An Artist By A Young Man and Woman

‘Lady in Red’ Tessa Buckley

Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game…

School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe.

The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie…

As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed.

Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.

The cover for Tessa Buckley’s third novel in the Eye Spy series, ‘The Lady in Red’

The third in the series of Eye Spy novels for “middle grade” readers aged between 8-12 sees intrepid investigation twins, Alex and Donna, on the trail of a lost Pre-Raphaelite painting.

I really enjoyed ‘Lady in Red’. What I’m going to say next might not sound like praise but it is: this novel is old fashioned, in the best sense of the word, and has all the hallmarks of the vintage Secret Seven or Famous Five, but updated for the modern age. 

This is a world where adults are caring, but suitably hands off to let children go play and fall down coalholes. Where the children might be reckless, but they try to be respectful and really just want to help.

Investigations grind to a halt for family barbecues and time together with friends. Yes, there are the trappings of modern life – mobile phones, their eccentric, inventor father is on a second marriage and they have a half sister – but none of these things so often used for melodrama in heavier novels slows the plot down – find the old man’s painting and save his house from a dark suit wearing, boo hiss villain. Love it!

Buckley is clearly a talented writer. Her prose nips along like skipping children in a field of wheat and, as an author, she is clearly on the side of her adventurous protagonists. 

Author Tessa Buckley

She has really captured that blunt, nonsense, brutality of younger children. To whit, as Alex says:

“Although I felt sorry for Billie, I don’t like whiney kids, and she was beginning to get on my nerves.”

Or later, at his half-sister’s christening:

When I pointed to what look like a pile of frogs’ eggs on little biscuits, Lucy laughed. “That’s caviar. You can try it, but you won’t like it.” She was right. I didn’t.”

I jut love that. You can hear Buckley relishing the little victories of these often overlooked voices and she’s clearly a skilled practitioner of the genre.

This is not a criticism at all, but an observation. There won’t be many 8 year olds who will find this an easy read and so it does present an excellent extension task for capable younger readers and a rip roaring, rollicking read for the lower secondary pupils.

However, this is wholesome family fun and a rip roaring adventure tale which parents could enjoy with their children.

Purchase Links 

‘Lady in Red’    Amazon.co.uk  paperback

‘Lady in Red’    Amazon.co.uk  ebook

‘Lady in Red’    Amazon.com ebook

‘Lady in Red’    Ibooks

‘Lady in Red’    Matador bookstore

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/young-adult/lady-in-red/

Author Bio – 

Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers. 

She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives. 

There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 201, and Lady in Red.

She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.

Social Media Links –  

Website:        https://tessabuckleyauthor.com

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/Tessa-Buckley-Author-

Charming Crime and Supernatural Guinea Pigs

Who Killed Patrick? By Syl Waters

Confession

The cover of Syl Waters' book Who Killed Patrick? is shown.

Okay, full disclosure – I thought this book was going to give me a dilemma. I like to keep things positive (there’s enough bad stuff in the real world, without moaning online.) 

And I wasn’t absolutely certain I was going to like Who Killed Patrick by Syl Waters.

So, why review it?

Well, it was marketed to me as being about Tarah, a young woman with a life is going nowhere. Not disinteresting.

At the drop of a hat, she decides to junk the UK and head to Fuerteventura to start a new adventure. 

She soon starts a job managing a hotel complex. However, a dead guest threatens to pull apart her hoped-for dream life.

So: I like a bit of a crime, I like of bit of sun and it sounded OK. 

There was some bit about Tarah’s pet guinea pig, Mr Bob, who apparently has a knack for sniffing out trouble and suspects foul play. 

Not really keen on supernatural talking animals but I thought, what’s to lose?

Rapture!

I am pleased to say my misgivings were dispelled on the second page. 

Any book where the frustrated protagonist can respond to a patronising boss asking her how to open an email attachment with, ‘I can open it as well if you want?’ I asked in my most pleasant would-you-like-me-to-suck-your-cock-while-doing-the-splits personal assistant voice,’ is  a winner in my book.

Any book where the frustrated protagonist can respond to a patronising boss asking her how to open an email attachment with, ‘I can open it as well if you want?’ I asked in my most pleasant would-you-like-me-to-suck-your-cock-while-doing-the-splits personal assistant voice,’ is  a winner in my book

Who Killed Patrick? continues in the same vein. It is a charming read with a delightful, well-intentioned central character wholly and realistically out of her depth.

Who among us can’t relate to a lead character who feels like there is, ‘Always too much month and not enough money’? 

I also like the dashes of crudity which make Tarah a realistic heroine. When she meets one character she says, ‘‘Coochi cooo, who are yoooooo?’ He says in a I’m-talking-to-a-little-baby-in-a-very-silly-but-very-cute-voice-which-makes-women’s-hearts-melt-and-them-feel-slightly-moist-between-their-legs,’ which is just splendid. 

Unconventional Detective

Likewise, one tires of amateur detectives wandering thorugh murder mysteries blithely immune to the stress and strains it would take on you. Not our Tarah.

I struggle to imagine Hercule Poirot in his climactic final get together of the suspects saying, ‘If I wasn’t going to have to go out and be the ring leader, I’d be laughing at this crazy scene. But as I have to be a part of this, I’m not. I’m shitting it. My stomach curls and I feel like my insides are about to explode into my pants. My intestines are twisting and cramping like they’re trying to perform a Trucker’s Hitch knot.’

I also appreciate Waters’ description of Fuerteventura, a place she makes sound like a sun soaked volcanic paradise – dead holiday maker and permanently sozzled ex-pat “locals” aside.

Mr Bob

I was prepared to dislike a talking guinea pig with a nose for trouble. But, again, I had misjudged the quality of the writing and the story telling.

For those who are concerned – worry not. 

Mr Bob is a charmer and I look forward to encountering him again in future adventures. Or so I hope!

Pleasingly, you can see Mr Bob here: @mrbob.guineapig

Conclusion

Rarely have I been more pleased to be wrong about a book. Who Killed Patrick? by Syl Waters is a delightful read which zips by with charm and highly skilled writing. I can not wait for a sequel (please, please, please) and to read more of Waters’ work.

Highly recommended!

Purchase Links 
UK –https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08BJ4RPTS/
US –  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BJ4RPTS/

Sign up to Syl Waters newsletter receive a free copy of The Little Book Of Curiously Fascinating Facts about Guinea Pigs – http://www.sylwaters.com/

Author Bio – Most people know crazy cat ladies are a ‘thing’, but I’m a proud crazy guinea pig lady! I love fun in the sun and plenty of cocktails. My happy place is flip flops. I write stories to keep me company – my characters ensure I’m never lonely and always smiling (when I’m not tearing my hair out!)

Social Media Links – 

www.sylwaters.com

Twitter: @waters_syl

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/syl.waters.54

‘Even Dogs in the Wild’ by Ian Rankin

The man just seems to be getting better and better.

61wMZQZ69PL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_Twitter star @Beathhigh, also known as writer Ian Rankin, has been entertaining fans of his Inspector John Rebus novels since the debut of the hard drinking, ex-squaddie in 1987’s Knots and Crosses. Rebus has changed over the years – his musical taste, his sense of humour, his relationships with friends and family – but with this, the 20th novel to deal with the Edinburgh underworld, Rankin may have outdone himself again.

Famously, Rebus was written in tight chronology, aging in real time. This gave Rankin a problem as Rebus was forced to retire in 2007’s Exit Music but Rebus was saved and was able to be brought out of retirement in the darkly brooding 2012 Standing in Another Man’s Grave due to the advent of (the then-Lothian and Borders) cold case units.

I first entered the dark underbelly of this particular crime series through an abridged audiobook of Knots and Crosses (on cassette – I’m old) read by James MacPherson in his pacifying, undulating Scottish lilt, somewhere around the year 2000. By the time Rankin published The Naming of the Dead in 2006, I was hooked and hugely impressed with the author’s ability to meld a gripping narrative with real life events in faction-style rarely so successfully achieved in the orbit of tartan noir.

However, whilst I think this was the time that Rebus as a character really got his hooks into the reading public’s imagination, I actually believe the post-retirement novels have been even more satisfying, even if the contemporary references are now broad brush strokes designed to add colour rather than driving plot in the quite the way of old.

Even Dogs in the Wild is a novel of big themes – death and love (of course) – but also of families and relationships; parents and children, friends and enemies. Exemplifying these themes are the characters who pump the heart of Rankin’s tale.

Rebus and Big Ger Cafferty have mellowed from the ying and yang of Edinburgh’s mean streets to a pair of bickering pensioners with more fight left in them than outsiders expect – the Still Game Jack and Victor of organised crime and detection, if you will.

Rebus trying to improve his relationship with his daughter Sammy at the prompting of Malcolm Fox, as Fox’s own father ails and his sister thrashes about in hurt and confusion.

It is the arcs of the characters which are so satisfying. Rankin has also moved Malcolm Fox from the uptight sober (literally and metaphorically) semi-policeman of The Complaints to a touching foil for Rebus and Siobhan, almost becoming natural police (as McNulty would say) and dancing around a relationship with DI Clarke which is supportive, if not brimming with passion.

Rebus, Clarke and Fox are becoming The Good , The Bad and The Ugly (although which is which is anyone’s guess) of these tales but the passing of batons and dying of immature lights are echoed on the other side of the street by Cafferty’s dealings with too-cool-by-half upstart Daryl Christie making his third appearance.

Finally, I listen to these novels using the (thankfully unabridged) Audible downloads – no more cassettes. James Macpherson is still doing a grand job and has the tonal shifts to represent all of the characters with realism and subtlety.

I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been with the characters for so long, or because to read characters we know so well and to see them change and adjust to new realities, but Rankin is better than ever. I just hope that a) no one tries to do another terrible adaptation of these and b) that they are still wheeling Rebus out in his bath chair for Rebus 40.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Even-Dogs-Wild-Rebus-Inspector-x/dp/1409159361/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448108611&sr=8-1&keywords=even+dogs+in+the+wild

The Corsican Caper

Peter Mayle's latest south of France delight

Peter Mayle’s latest south of France delight

The Corsican Caper In the UK, Peter Mayle is still best known for his non-fiction account of life in France, A Year in Provence. Nearly 30 years old, the book recounted Mayle and his wife’s move to a broken down house in the countryside and his struggles to work with the builders and locals.

In terms of epoch-defining work, this was definitely an under-the-radar success but the result was an glut of Brits shelving the rat race and heading to the sun at the earliest opportunity. The book also created an entire new genre of works by a range of authors with similar stories to tell. Some are excellent – Chris Stewart and Driving Over Lemons – some are rot.

But, what people are perhaps less aware of, is Mayle’s latter career as a novelist. He has been turning out a range of work – both fiction and non-fiction – since his big successes of the early 90s and the novels are of an infinite lightness and charm.

I’m never really comfortable with work being described in the ‘guilty pleasure’ category. Either you like the work or you don’t and Mayle, I’m sure, pours all his efforts into producing the work. They have a formula – charming, handsome English male with enough money to do what he pleases gets sucked into solving crime in the south of France, whilst dalliancing with a beautiful local girl and stopping for lashings of Provencal cuisine and gallons of rose wine.

So far, so parfait. However, over the last few novels, there appears to have been an evolution in the formula. The lead characters are now American and there is definitely a move to try and tap into a wider international market.

The Corsican Caper is the third in a series – preceded by The Vintage Caper and The Marsaille Caper and the first time Mayle has tackled a series of fiction titles – and is centred around the character of Sam Levitt, a former criminal turned adventurer for hire, who has, over the course of the books, been involved in wine heists, kidnapping and art theft. The gorgeous Elena Morales and his billionaire chum Francis Reboul, owner of a sumptuous Gatsby-esque mansion overlooking the Mediterranean near Marsaille, join Sam in his quest for a profitable life.

This latest novel actually centres around the house itself, when an unscrupulous Russian business man – Oleg Vronsky – who, when not indulging in standard Russian oligarch behaviour as prescribed by Mayle, such as purchasing a football club, tries to acquire the luxurious property by a series of increasingly desperate methods. This, inevitably, involves kidnapping, assassination attempts, the Corsican mafia and Sam saving the day. And lunch. Lots of lunches.

The charm of the novels is in the descriptions of the food and the wine. I’m guessing that Peter Mayle has had to dredge out his old thesaurus across the span of his writing for new ways of describing rose wine – but that’s OK because I like the vicarious experience of eating and drinking in sunny climes, especially when I’m stuck in a wintry Highlands.

The Corsican Caper is not high art. It’s not going to lecture you on the human condition or tell you anything about human nature which had slipped your attention previously. But, the novel nips along, the plot twists and turns without apparent effort on Mayle’s part and the man can write about wealthy people, enjoying the good life, like few others.

I can only offer a wholehearted recommendation for this as a first class beach book.

The Corsican Caper in Five Words: Crime and Wine in paradise

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corsican-Caper-Peter-Mayle/dp/0345804562/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433683461&sr=8-1&keywords=the+corsican+caper