Saturday, 26 November 2022

Guest Review: Out of Bounds By Val McDermid

'There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn't one of them . . .'

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it's as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

Review: This is the fourth book, published in 2016, in the Karen Pirie crime thriller series. It can be read as a standalone, but it does follow on from the third book, so I would recommend reading the series in order. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit based in Edinburgh, is recovering from a tragic event. The story begins in 2016, when the results of analysis of a blood sample from the teenage driver of a vehicle involved in a serious accident shows what forensic scientists refer to as a familial match to a sample from an undetected rape and murder of a young woman in Glasgow 20 years earlier. This means that the person from whom the material originated was an older, close relative of the driver. This new lead in the cold case gives Karen Pirie and her assistant, Detective Constable (DC) Jason Murray, an opportunity to revisit the original investigation. At around the same time as the road traffic accident, a man is found dead from a gunshot wound in Kinross. It is unclear whether this was a suicide, or something more suspicious. However, when Karen discovers that the man’s mother was among a group of victims murdered by an explosive device 22 years earlier, she takes it upon herself to investigate these two incidents. At the time, in 1994, the explosion was thought to be the work of an Irish terrorist group. However, nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, no arrests were made and the case remained officially undetected. Karen argues that this means that investigation of the explosion falls within her remit, and also that the death of the woman’s son is somehow linked.

The book follows Karen and Jason as they try to unravel the two historic crimes, while also attempting to delve further into the current potential crime. I found it to be fast-paced, with many twists. It is set mainly in Scotland, in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Kinross, and also in London. As in her previous books, I found that the forensic science aspects of the plot were well researched. In addition, Val McDermid is adept at describing locations, and having actually eaten in one of the cafes mentioned in the book, I could picture myself in some of the locations. It was also interesting to discover some of the nuances of the Scottish legal system. In this book, we discover a more vulnerable side to DCI Pirie, but this does not detract from the usual determined manner in which she pursues her investigations. I should add a care warning that there is a lot of strong language in the book. I listened to the audiobook version and, again, thought that the narrator, Cathleen McCarron, brought it to life with her varied voice characterisations.

I enjoyed following the thrilling story as the detectives tried to unravel the various lines of investigation. However, I do have one minor quibble. At the end of the book, it is implied that Karen Pirie has solved the 1996 Glasgow murder case. Indeed, she discusses with an advocate the means of obtaining the evidence that will provide the final piece in the jigsaw. However, I do not believe that the book states explicitly that this has been achieved. Notwithstanding this minor glitch, this book should appeal to anyone interested in crime fiction, and is another excellent addition to the Karen Pirie series.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday, 24 November 2022

Guest Review: The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley

She’s planned the perfect Christmas. But fate might have other ideas…

Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.

With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.

But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.

Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.

Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…

Review: I have been looking out with anticipation for the annual Christmas book from Phillipa Ashley. I have been a regular reader of her books for some time now, and have never failed to love her festive publication. This one is set in the Lake District, one of my favourite parts of the UK. The cover is absolutely beautiful, promising the reader a snowy Christmas trip to the countryside.

The story centres on Krystle, who has planned her dream vacation in the Lake District with boyfriend Brett, staying for 2 months in a large manor house that she plans to fill with all the decorations for a real family Christmas. Following a difficult start in life, Krystle now has a highly successful business sourcing Christmas decorations and planning commercial and domestic displays. Her dream holiday doesn’t get off to the best start as the couple have to be rescued from a swollen river after their expensive car gets stuck within sight of their destination. Their rescuer, Max, is a seemingly unpleasant recluse with a hatred of Christmas. Even when they reach their lovely rental property, things don’t improve, as Brett can’t forget about work and eventually leaves Krystle on her own. In his absence, she becomes more and more involved with local events and tries to involve Max in the festivities. The pair become friends as they share the difficult times in their past, but will their friendship develop into something more?

This was a wonderfully heart-warming Christmas romance which I can confidently recommend. It has a great mix of drama, humour and Christmas activities. The setting of Krystle’s remote holiday let amongst the snow covered mountains is beautifully described in a way that is guaranteed to make the reader want to set off for a visit. The characters in the story are all likeable, with the possible exception of Brett, but then he and Krystle didn’t seem well suited from the start. I liked that both Max and Krystle had interesting, if sad, back stories that emerged gradually as the book progressed. It was rewarding to witness how Krystle managed to find a way past Max’s gruff exterior and dislike of all things festive to discover the person beneath. I also loved that Krystle became so involved with the community while she was staying there. This is definitely a book that anyone would be delighted to find in their Christmas stocking.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday, 18 November 2022

Review: Flappy Investigates by Santa Montefiore

 Flappy returns in the fabulously fun follow-up to Flappy Entertains from bestselling author Santa Montefiore, and this time something is amiss in the village of Badley Compton . . . 

Binoculars at the ready, Flappy Scott-Booth is set to investigate.   Newcomers have moved in, a young couple from London, delightful no doubt but they do need to know their place. Who better to teach them the ways of this close-knit community than Flappy herself?

But Flappy has other distractions. An ardent admirer, a New Year’s Ball to organize and manifold appearances to be kept up. How much time and effort it all takes!  Add to the mix the sudden arrival of her son Jasper with his utterly charming persona and total lack of ambition and drive, accompanied by his pretentious wife and their two highly-strung children - and Flappy is on ultra-high alert.

Review: It was so great to be back in Flappy world again. Badley Compton is a small place with a big personality. So much is going on in the village...according to Flapp. New people have moved in, her children are home to visit and so, as you can imagine, Flappy is very busy!

She is such a complex character, I feel like we went on a whole journey with her in Flappy Entertains and yet I think she does grow and change over the course of this book too. I was worried about having Flappy's son in this book because I thought they might have a strained relationship or else I wouldn't like the way she treated him. To be honest I was worried that she would use him in a game of oneupmanship i the village but their realtionship is interesting and I think their relationsip is one of the reasons we see somewhat of a change in Flappy over the course of the book. 

There are definitely some laughs to be had as the storyline progresses. Flappy is in a quandry about so many things. In the process of her investigations she gets herself in some compromising positions and we also get to see a little more of her husband in this novel which makes for some light hearted moments too. Overall though, Flappy's heart is in the right place and so this book is definitely a comfort read and something short and sweet to warm your soul during a cold time of the year. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Guest Review: The Little Paris Patisserie by Julie Caplin

In a cosy corner of Paris, a delicious little patisserie is just waiting to be discovered. And romance might just be on the menu…

As the youngest of four, Nina Hadley has always had her big brothers telling her what to do. So, when she’s given the chance to move to Paris and help run a patisserie course, she can’t say au revoir quick enough!

There’s just one problem: high-flying chef Sebastian Finlay is the owner of the patisserie. He’s also her brother Nick’s best friend – and the man she has secretly been in love with since forever.

Amongst the mouth-wateringly delicious eclairs and delicate macaroons, Nina’s culinary creations aren’t the only tempting thing she’s working with…

Review: This is the third book in an ongoing series of currently 10 ‘Romantic Escapes’ by Julie Caplin, an author new to me. Although part of a series, it was possible to read this story, and I assume the others, as a standalone. I was looking forward to being taken on a trip to Paris, with hopefully some delicious patisserie products to sample; I was not disappointed.

The story centres on Nina, the youngest in a family of four, with three well-meaning elder brothers to look out for her, although she sometimes felt she would like to get away on her own for a while. She has been floating from job to job but has not found one that is just right. When her brother’s best friend and successful chef Sebastian needs help running a patisserie course in Paris, she jumps at the opportunity to grab some independence for a while, and perhaps expand her cooking skills at the same time. The only drawback is that she had a teenage crush on Sebastian and is still secretly in love with him although he displays no romantic feelings towards her.

I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other readers, particularly if you like the idea of visiting Paris and have a taste for fine patisserie. There are some eminently likeable and interesting characters in this book, but I’m afraid that, for me, Sebastian was not one of them. He was the archetypal moody and bossy chef, not at all appreciative of what Nina was doing for him. However, Sebastian’s behaviour did not cure Nina’s amorous feelings towards him and I kept hoping that he might see her as someone other than his friend’s little sister. On the other hand, the people who Nina met through the course were all friendly and supportive of her efforts to learn to produce fine pastries. My mouth was watering at the descriptions of the eclairs and macarons she produced. Having enjoyed this book, I will be looking out for some of the other titles in this series, all of which seem to involve a visit to somewhere new and interesting.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books with Aww Moments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. 

So I have made this one slightly more flexible by going with books that made me go aww rather than just their aww moments...