Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Summary:

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

My Review:

I loved Ariadne and it was my fiction book of the year for 2021 and Jennifer Saint now returns with Elektra (Wildfire Books) which is released on 28 April, so not too long to wait and if like me you really enjoyed Jennifer’s writing then you are going to love Elektra it is well worth the wait.

What Jennifer Saint has given us in Elektra is the story from three women of the Trojan Wars. Clytemnestra who is the sister of Helen and is the wife of Agamemnon, Cassandra who is the Princess of Troy and is cursed by Apollo and then there is Elektra who is the youngest of the daughters of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon and she conspired with her brother to eliminate her mother.

This is a fabulous sweeping mythological story that now gives voice to the three women. Their lives are now brought to life and each of the characters are complex, and each has their own destiny and their ambitions. Admittedly I found the story to focus more on Clytemnestra but that does not in anyway detract from the voices of Cassandra and Elektra. Each of the chapters is by one of the three women in their own voice and their stories of revenge. There are a number of themes that are written into this story, but Jennifer writes with great sensitivity.

I have to say that I have come to really love the way Jennifer Saint writes and how she weaves the stories in both books, all the characters really come to life, with all their own induvial tragedies and I found as in Ariadne easy to follow and I just really enjoyed the interactions. The is complex at times as you would expect with Greek mythology, but it is a joy to read and beautifully written.

I am not going to give any spoilers here; you are just going to have to wait for publication day and you can enjoy. Elektra is already my favourite book of the year so far. It will take some beating. It is compelling as it is rich. I have no idea how Jennifer Saint is going to follow this, but I for one and intrigued and look forward to book three. Elektra is one book not to miss.

352 Pages.

My thanks to Caitlin Raynor (PR Director for Headline Books, Tinder Press and Wildfire Books for the review Copy of Elektra by Jennifer Saint.  Published on 28 April 2022 and can be pre-ordered through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

River Clyde by Simone Buchholz

River Clyde by Simone Buchholz

Translated by Rachel Ward

Summary:

Mired in grief after tragic recent events, state prosecutor Chastity Riley escapes to Scotland, lured to the birthplace of her great-great-grandfather by a mysterious letter suggesting she has inherited a house. 

In Glasgow, she meets Tom, the ex-lover of Chastity’s great aunt, who holds the keys to her own family secrets – painful stories of unexpected cruelty and loss that she’s never dared to confront. 

In Hamburg, Stepanovic and Calabretta investigate a major arson attack, while a group of property investors kicks off an explosion of violence that threatens everyone. 

As events in these two countries collide, Chastity prepares to face the inevitable, battling the ghosts of her past and the lost souls that could be her future and, perhaps, finally finding redemption for them all.

Breathtakingly emotive, River Clyde is an electrifying, poignant and powerful story of damage and hope, and one woman’s fight for survival.

My Review:

I know that I have said this many times on my blog about how creating characters in novels is so key to the success of the storyline, but in Simone Buchholz she nails this brilliantly in her books. Book five featuring the state prosecutor Chastity Riley hit the bookshops last week. River Clyde (Orenda Books) and follows on from Hotel Cartagena which was released in March 2021.

If you are new to this series of books by Simone Buchholz you may want to get hold of a copy of the previous book in the series Hotel Cartagena as this follows on as you get a real insight to some of the events that take place and will give you a real idea as to were this book takes off from.

Chastity Riley is still in a real state of shock after the events that took place in Hotel Cartagena. Chastity is in a pretty dark place that is until she receives an unexpected letter and now leaves Hamburg and her role as state prosecutor and heads to Scotland it now appears she has inherited a property but just who has left her the house? What we see in River Clyde is a different Chastity Riley. The events have left her shaken and our lead character is struggling. Being in Scotland may help and we are now seeing a very different character. In Scotland she is now looking into the past that connects her family history. So, this is a bit of a personal storyline not the usual crime novel that we have become accustomed to, but that does not mean to say that back in Hamburg there is not a crime that her team are investigating. This is much more of a sombre novel.

But there is something very different about River Clyde that I was not expecting that only Simone Buchholz could have done. I had the feeling that Chastity was on a personal journey to confront the past which could unlock her future for her, an emotional one for both Chastity and the reader. It was unexpected and yet revealing.

It is translated by Rachel Ward who again has done a magnificent job. River Clyde is different from the previous books in the series but a brilliant read. What now for Chastity Riley?

Pages: 276

My thanks to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review Copy of River Clyde by Simone Buchholz Published Orenda Books on 17th March 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements

The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements

Summary:

Germany, late summer 1945 – The war is over but the country is in ruins. Millions of refugees and holocaust survivors strive to rebuild their lives in displaced persons camps. Millions of German soldiers and SS men are held captive in primitive conditions in open-air detention centres. Everywhere, civilians are desperate for food and shelter. No one admits to having voted Nazi, yet many are unrepentant.

Adolf Hitler is said to have killed himself in his Berlin bunker. But no body was found – and many people believe he is alive. Newspapers are full of stories reporting sightings and theories. Even Stalin, whose own troops captured the bunker, has told President Truman he believes the former Führer is not dead. Day by day, American and British intelligence officers subject senior members of the Nazi regime to gruelling interrogation in their quest for their truth.

Enter Tom Wilde – the Cambridge professor and spy sent in to find out the truth…

Dramatic, intelligent, and brilliantly compelling, THE MAN IN THE BUNKER is Rory’s best WWII thriller yet – perfect for readers of Robert Harris, C J Sansom and Joseph Kanon.

My Review:

First things first, this is the first book by Rory Clements that I have read, and I have to say it is a brilliant read from the first page through to the last. The Man in the Bunker (Zaffre) is a gripping World War II novel. The cover gives that away but even if like me you have not read any of the previous novels this does not in anyway spoil the read.

It is late summer, 1945 and the war is over, and the world can slowly begin the path to recovery, and for Cambridge Professor Tom Wilde now he can get back to the life he had before the war. Tom Wilde’s role in WWII was as a spy and now he can put this behind him or so he thinks. The allies are now rounding up senior Nazis to face trial for the atrocities during the war. But the leader of the Nazis Adolf Hitler spent the final weeks of the war in the bunker in Berlin as Berlin was being pounded by the Soviets. Hitler was said he would commit suicide in the bunker rather than being taken alive by the Soviet army and taken back to Moscow. Now the story is that Hitler did not commit suicide and somehow managed to escape the bunker and get out of Berlin.

Just to add to the mystery two British agents that were investigating whether Hitler was alive or not have been found murdered. Now Professor Tom Wilde who was just looking forward to getting back to normality is sent for to take up the investigations and is joined by Lieutenant Mozes Heck. Heck clearly has very personal reasons for hating any Nazis he comes across and his ways of extracting information is brutal and would rather kill everyone one of them and this puts both in real danger at times, but this does not stop Heck one bit, far from it. The pair will travel and track down anyone who they think will have information as to the whereabouts of senior officials with information about Hitler.

This is a really tense and pulsating read mixing both fact and fiction to create a powerful novel, there are times when some of the information about what really took place is distressing but what Rory Clements has created is a story at just under 500 pages that takes you not just into the heart of Germany just after the war but across Europe as both Wilde and Heck track down those they seek. What is described is the hell that was parts of Germany and parts of Europe as those misplaced people searched the ruins for loved ones.

No spoilers as to what happens as this is a must read and I for one now must read the previous novels that featured Professor Tom Wilde as a spy in the war. The Man in the Bunker is a stunning spy novel and is highly recommended.

484 Pages.

The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements is Published by Zaffre and was released on 20th January 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Summary:

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.
I’m no Hercule Poirot.
I’m her husband’s mistress.


Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

Nina de Gramont’s The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.

My Review:

Just mentioning the name Agatha Christie and you can conjure up in your mind all the great mystery novels but how many really know what happened in early December 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. The Christie Affair (Mantle) by Nina de Gramont imagines the story of her disappearance.

Agatha Christie wrote many classic mystery novels, but this was a mystery that involved the great writer herself. What Nina de Gramont has written is a superb imagining of what led up to the writer just taking off late one evening telling no-one where she was going but she did take her trusted typewriter with her. But this is a story not just about Agatha Christie but what really led up to her disappearance and the story is about Nan O’Dea whose own life is the complete opposite of Agatha Christie herself. Nan O’Dea’s own life was tough from a young age, and she saw something that she really wanted as the writer’s life was more glamorous than her own.

Agatha married Archie Christie on Christmas Eve 1914 but in 1926 he admitted that he was involved with another woman, and this was the spark for her disappearance as she left the family home which sparks a media frenzy about her disappearance. I found the first part of the story was a bit slow but the second half which is about Agatha’s disappearance really picked up the pace and this is where the Nina de Gramont storytelling will excite readers. There are a number of characters that you get to meet which a fascinating and really make the novel.

The story of Agatha Christie’s disappearance in early December 1926 is enthralling and The Christie Affair is an entertaining read and a real mystery to get to grips with as the story comes to a thrilling climax. If you are an Agatha Christie fan, then this is one book I would recommend.

368 Pages.

The Christie Affair is published by Mantle and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Summary:

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.
 
Emma Webster is a devoted mother.
 
Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.
 
Emma Webster is a liar.
 
#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

My Review:

Many like me really enjoyed Anatomy of a Scandal which is being developed as a series for Netflix, but now Sarah Vaughan with another political thriller Reputation (Simon & Schuster) which is due out in hardback on 3rd March and this I can highly recommend.  

Now here is a book a really struggled to leave alone for very long, the story of Emma Webster who is an MP, she is dedicated to her role since becoming elected and also away from her position she is a devoted mother, but what happens when you life is turned upside down when you are a serving Member of Parliament and you feature in a major weekend newspaper with a photograph that seems to incite some on social media let alone some in her own party. There are threats made to her life, and there is even a bottle of water kept on her desk when she holds meetings back in her constituency in case of acid attacks. Some think Emma is fair game, and some take it to the extreme.

There is a real sense of claustrophobia when you are reading the story of Emma’s life, she is in constant fear of being followed even when she is cycling home. But then the story really reaches even new hights when a man dies, and Emma is implicated in the death of the man. What follows is a real tense courtroom drama, but just who is telling the truth?

Sarah Vaughan writes superbly and sets the scene as the drama plays out in court like you are part of the jury. Innocent or guilty you decide when you read for yourself. This is gripping and compelling drama and at times disturbing and makes for uncomfortable reading.

There are many themes being discussed within Reputation that include harassment and bullying it is very much a timely novel for the days in which we are living in.

I cannot recommend highly enough how Sarah Vaughan not only creates the settings and scenes in the novels she writes but also how she creates her characters, and this makes for powerful reading. And I for one am pleased I have.

480 Pages.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for the NetGalley review Copy of Reputation by Sarah Vaughan. Published on 3rd March 2022 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Summary:

In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.

Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act.

And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, and King himself becomes a target of media scrutiny and the public’s ire, it becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…

My Review:

Have we really reached the sixth book in the series of the Six Stories series by Matt Wesolowski? Each one of the previous five in the series has been nothing short of outstanding and just released is Demon (Orenda Books) and Matt Wesolowski has not let up with his incredible writing.
If you have not yet come across the Six Stories series, then you are in for a real treat. Scott King is the host of a podcast that looks at old crimes and interviews those close to what really went on. Each is gripping and addictive.

For the latest in the series of the podcast our host, Scott King is investigating the brutal murder of 12-year-old Sydney Parsons, he was murdered by two boys of the same age.

The tiny Yorkshire village of Ussalthwaite was shocked by the dreadful murder and the village became the centre of the news across the world. The two boys who committed the murder were locked up but at the time no real reason for the murder was ever given, but there was something supernatural about what really happened. Now that Scott King and his podcast series are investigating the murder of Sydney Parsons the past will be brought back and six people close to the case will be interviewed as Scott seeks to look at what took place prior and after the murder. But is the village ready for the past to be raked up? Emotions are still raw especially as the two boys convicted of the murder were released in 2002 and given new identities.

As Scott King begins to investigate the case, he begins to uncover the facts about the ‘Demonic Duo’ as they became known and a village with a history that has had its heart ripped out and may never recover. But as Scott King continues his investigation and interviews, something else begins and that are the threats to him, and these get more and more terrifying. Clearly there are some people who do not want Scott King to continue with the case.

It is a dark and powerful novel with Matt Wesolowski being an outstanding writer that can allow the reader to become so involved in the storyline despite taking them to the darkest of places of the human mind. But now the question is will there be any more in the series, or will this be the last we hear of mysterious Scott King and his investigative podcasts?

320 Pages.

#Demon

@ConcreteKraken

@OrendaBooks

My thanks to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of Demon by Matt Wesolowski. Published on 20th January 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Maid by Nita Prose

The Maid by Nita Prose

Summary:

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
 
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .

My Review:

One of the most hotly anticipated books of the year is released on 20th January The Maid (Harper Collins) the debut novel by Nita Prose and is a fabulous murder mystery and the film rights have already been snapped up by Universal.

Molly Gray is our narrator, and she is the maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, and she really loves her job, and she cannot imagine doing anything else. But Molly seems to be all alone, and she comes and goes in her role and is not noticed in her position. Each day she attends to rooms and cleaning up after the guests leave. Sometimes there are secrets that only the maid sees and hears but Molly keeps it all to herself. But all that is about to change.

When Molly attends to one room and finds the guest dead in his bed, Molly’s life suddenly changes. Molly is different and your heart just breaks for her. She is socially awkward and finds making friends difficult. She has no memory of her mother and some of the staff make fun of her. Now Molly is at the centre of a murder investigation. Molly could never kill anyone but is now questioned about the murder of a longstanding guest and so the story really comes into its own as Molly now needs the help of some of the staff at the hotel to find out what really happened and at the same time clear up any misunderstanding that she could be involved in the death of a guest.

Molly is a wonderful narrator and there is a host of interesting characters that you get to meet, some good and some not so good. Without doubt The Maid is going to be one of THE books of 2022. Beautifully written by Nita Prose and is just a superb read. You are going to love meeting Molly the maid and you will take her to your heart.

#TheMaid

352 Pages.

My thanks to Jaime Witcomb (Harper Collins) for the review Copy of The Maid by Nita Prose Published by Harper Collins on 20th January 2022 and is now available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Betrayal by David Gilman

Betrayal by David Gilman

Summary:

Dan Raglan, former Foreign Legion fighter, alias The Englishman, returns. The new high-octane international thriller from David Gilman.

Someone’s trying to start a war. And Raglan’s just walked into the kill zone.

It has been many years since Dan Raglan served in the French Foreign Legion, but the bonds forged in adversity are unbreakable and when one of his comrades calls for help, Raglan is duty-bound to answer.

An ex-legionnaire, now an intelligence officer at the Pentagon, disappears. He leaves only this message: should he ever go missing, contact Raglan. But Raglan’s not the only one looking for the missing man. From the backstreets of Marseilles, Raglan finds himself following a trail of death that will lead him to Florida, to the camaraderie of a Vietnam vet in Washington D.C., and into the heart of a bitter battle in the upper echelons of the US intelligence community.

Pursued by both the CIA and a rogue female FBI agent, Raglan’s search will place him in the cross hairs of an altogether more lethal organisation. Tracking his old comrade, he finds himself in the midst of deadly conspiracy, and on a journey to a fatal confrontation deep in the Honduran rainforest.

My Review:

The return of Dan Raglan. Fans of thriller writer David Gilman will be delighted to hear that published today (6th January) is Betrayal (Head of Zeus) and is the second in the series following on from The Englishman that was published in July 2020.

Not to worry if you have not read the first instalment featuring the former Foreign Legion fighter as both can be happily read as a standalone thriller but be warned, you may then want to go and grab a copy of the first when you have read Betrayal as this is a gripping thriller that will have you crossing the globe and at every turn there is danger that faces Dan Raglan known as the The Englishman.

In this instalment Dan Raglan hears that a friend and former French Foreign Legion fighter who now works at the Pentagon has disappeared and gone off the grid. Because of the role he has at the Pentagon, this is suspicious, and Raglan now must find him and quickly, but why has his former colleague disappeared? Be prepared for one hell of a rollercoaster of a thriller. The pace never lets up and when you consider this is a book of nearly 550 pages this is quite something to keep it going.

For Raglan he knows his former Legionnaire friend is in trouble and time is of the essence. Without giving anything away, there is more to this story than just a disappearance of his former colleague. Raglan is searching for his old comrade but who is looking for Dan Raglan and why?

Characters are so important in novels and in Betrayal they have been brilliantly written so that you can really get into the storyline. Raglan will do whatever is required and will not hesitate to kill anyone if that is what it takes.

David Gilman writes superbly and has crafted a compelling and plot driven thriller that is packed with drama and thriller lovers will really enjoy Betrayal as there is so much packed into this novel.

@DavidGilmanUK

@HoZ_Books

544 Pages.

My thanks to Sophie Ransom (Ransom PR) for the review Copy of Betrayal by David Gilman Published by Head of Zeus on 6th January 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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The Books That Made My Year: 2021

My Books of the Year for 2021

That was the year that was. We are still living in uncertain and strange times, but you can always guarantee that books will be there and get us through and they have again this year.

So as the old year draws to a close, I want to share some of the books that I have read and reviewed here on my blog, or through my book reviews for Word Gets Around magazine or via radio during the past year.

This year I have selected my ten fiction titles and ten non-fiction titles without actually picking just one from each to be my best book of the year. There have been so many great books through 2021 and it was incredibly hard to keep it down to just ten.

My ten fiction books of 2021

My ten favourite fiction reads for 2021:

The Night Gate by Peter May (riverrun)

Set in France in the autumn of 2020, Enzo Macleod is asked to investigate the discovery of the remains of a man found beneath a tree. He has been shot through the head. There is another murder and the two are seventy years apart. To uncover the whole story, you must go back to the fall of France in 1940.

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy jago (Bloomsbury)

This is a fabulous novel based on the true story that rocked the court of James I. If you love historical novels then this sumptuous novel with vivid characters is just waiting to be read. So much detail of the seventeenth century court life.

While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart (Headline)

Paris in 1944 a young woman is hoarded onto a train that is bound for a concentration camp and in an act of desperation she passes her baby to a complete stranger. Fast forward to Santa Cruz in 1953 and the past is about to return. I absolutely loved this novel.

No Honour by Awais Khan (orenda Books)

A story based in a small Pakistani village and sixteen-year-old Abida there are age old rules to abide by and consequences if you don’t. She wants a life with the young man she loves. She has no choice but to leave her village and head to Lahore. But this is where the story really begins. Powerful and heart wrenching.

Still Life by Sarah Winman (Fourth Estate)

Brilliant does not do justice to Still Life. I know this is many readers favourite of 2021 and it is not hard to see why. I just love Sarah’s writing. The story moves between London and Florence in a sweeping novel of love and fate. Simply gorgeous.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex (Picador)

Cornwall 1972 and three lighthouse keepers have simply vanished from the lighthouse, but what did really happen to the three men? Surely, they could not have just simply vanished? Based on real events.

On Hampstead Heath by Marika Cobbold (Arcadia Books)

Thorn Marsh writes for the London Journal but now it has been bought out Thorn finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement and fabricates a good news story. So why has she done this? You could easily overlook this novel. But don’t it is just wonderful.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Wildfire)

Shortlisted for Waterstones book of the year. A stunning retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. A wonderful debut novel. Jennifer Saint writes so beautifully. Cannot wait to see what comes next.

The Beresford by Will Carver (Orenda Books)

The Beresford is an apartment building where the rates are cheap but ring the doorbell if you dare. No-one seems to stay for very long, but they never seem to leave if you know what I mean. This is a dark and creepy story with some humour added. A master storyteller.

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks (Hutchinson)

Set across three time periods, beginning in 1914 and WWI and as we move through the years WWII is looming. This is a sweeping love story that begins in Austria. A tale of love lost and found.

My ten non-fiction books of 2021

Power and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (Head of Zeus)

Dan Jones does not write short history books, at 720 pages but what Dan does is write gripping history books. This account covers the period from AD 410 to AD 1527. It is a compelling read that you just cannot put down. There is so much contained in over 700 pages. Through this period, we see empires built and destroyed. Easily in my top ten of the year.

The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin (Constable)

Think of Lee Child and you automatically know him from the huge bestselling books, over 100 million of them, but do you know Lee Child the man? How did it all begin? Heather Martin has spent time with great man himself and it is all here. There is so much in this biography. Heather Martin is a wonderful writer and if you are a fan of Lee Child, this is a must read.

Mozart: The Reign of Love by Jan Swafford (Faber & Faber)

I have been fascinated by the great composers for many years and really wanted to get to know more about who they really were. Well look no further, this is a stunning book that covers the life of the genius composer. Mozart was not like the other composers. Different is an understatement but what genius as a composer. This book covers his life in over 800 pages.

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan (Allen Lane)

We can be so guilty of overlooking the humble index, so how did it all begin and were did they begin. The answer is here in one of my non-fiction books of the year. This could be so easily overlooked but it should not as we use indexes more than you think. Next time you Google, think of this. Duncan brings wit into his account of the index which spans over 800 years.

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster (Little Toller Books)

Writing this on a dull last day of the year, I miss the Swift, the scream as they fly low of the house. But it won’t be long I tell myself. In the meantime, here is an account of Charles Foster’s as he follows the Swift from its wintering home and waits patiently for the return to the UK. It is poetic and thoughtful with beautiful illustrations. Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2021.

The Making of Oliver Cromwell by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press)

This is a new and fascinating history of Oliver Cromwell. The only English commoner to become head of state. Ronald Hutton gets to the facts of a man that really has his place in history of this country. I am really hoping there is a part two to this outstanding book.

A Poet for Every day of the Year by Allie Esiri (Macmillan)

I have had a love of poetry since I was very young and have many of the collections put together by Allie Esiri and here are 366 poems for each and every day of the year. From Shakespeare to Wordsworth to Christina Rossetti and many more. Many of the poets and the poems may be familiar but many will be new to you. This book is never far away from me every day.

The White Ship by Charles Spencer (William Collins)

One of the great disasters of this country happened was the sinking of the White Ship in 1120. Many drowned including the King’s heir. But what really happened that night. It was the fastest ship afloat. Charles Spencer writes an historical account, and it reads like a bestselling thriller.

Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden (John Murray)

A 3,000-year history of the destruction of knowledge. We all know of the burning of the books in Germany in 1933, but books have been under attack since the clay tablets. This is a really important book about knowledge, and it is very thought-provoking.

The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds by Jon Dunn (Bloomsbury)

Having been to the Caribbean and seen Hummingbirds up close, they are just so alluring. Jon Dunn takes us on a journey to discover some of the great Hummingbirds with great stories of his encounters with the birds and the people he meets on his travels.

So, there we are another year in books comes to a close. I will keep saying this, but writers and books are so important, especially during uncertain times when we can escape into a book be it a novel or a book on history. This year I have started my journey with the Open University studying English Literature and Creative Writing and it has already given me a new perspective on how I read as well as writing.

I have really sharing some great books over the last year and I am so grateful for all the kind comments that many have taken to the time to add. Sat on my desk among the pile of study material are some great books for 2022 just waiting to be read and it already looks like being another great year.

This is also my opportunity to thank all the authors and publishers and the many people who work in PR who have trusted me with their books. To each one of you all I can do is thank you. It is also a chance to mention bookshops and the incredible booksellers who again have been working so hard in these difficult times and yet just look at the book sales over the past year.

I hope the New Year is a better year for us all. Here’s to more great books in 2022.

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

Summary:

Twelve clues.
Twelve keys.
Twelve days of Christmas.
But who will survive until Twelfth Night?

Lily Armitage never intended to return to Endgame House – the grand family home where her mother died twenty-one Christmases ago. Until she receives a letter from her aunt, asking her to return to take part in an annual tradition: the Christmas Game. The challenge? Solve twelve clues, to find twelve keys. The prize? The deeds to the manor house.

Lily has no desire to win the house. But her aunt makes one more promise: The clues will also reveal who really killed Lily’s mother all those years ago.

So, for the twelve days of Christmas, Lily must stay at Endgame House with her estranged cousins and unravel the riddles that hold the key not just to the family home, but to its darkest secrets. However, it soon becomes clear that her cousins all have their own reasons for wanting to win the house – and not all of them are playing fair.

As a snowstorm cuts them off from the village, the game turns deadly. Soon Lily realises that she is no longer fighting for an inheritance, but for her life.

This Christmas is to die for . . . Let the game begin

My Review:

You cannot beat a murder mystery at Christmas and especially set in a country house and a family that lets face don’t quite get on and in The Christmas Murder Mystery (Zaffre) by Alexandra Benedict you all these and a snow storm to add to the setting.

I featured The Christmas murder Game on my Christmas Books for the Somerset Cool Christmas Show as part of the Book Club, and I said that it just reminded me of Cluedo a game I still enjoy today. It really does have that feel about.

The lead character is Lily Armitage who cannot face ever returning to her aunt Lillian’s home that is Endgame House that is situated in the Yorkshire Dales, this this is where her mother died when Lily was young. But Lillian has died, and she has requested that the family must return to Endgame House over the Christmas holiday, but for Lily this means spending time with a family that has more than just a few cracks in it. But she has the chance of finding out what really happened to her mother all those years ago. But there is a catch, in that her aunt has insisted the family must partake in the Christmas Game that Lillian has set. There are twelve clues that Lillian has created in Sonnets and these must be solved as there are twelve keys to be found. The family must have no communication with the outside world and all mobile phones and devices must be handed in. At the end the winner will have the keys to Endgame House.

As Lily settles into the creepy old house, memories come flooding back of when she was here as a young child. What really did happen all those Christmases ago? Within the walls of Endgame House lie secrets that have gone untold for many years. Is this where the secrets finally seep out of the walls and into the open and how is this going to affect a family that really does not get on. Lilly wants to go back home to London where she now belongs.

What Lily does not know yet is that these games will include murder and that Lily will need to be on her guard as there is someone here who desperately wants this house for a reason and now just to make things worse a snowstorm has hit this part of remote Yorkshire. Lily feels she is trapped in a home and with relatives she does not trust, and some will not be playing these games fairly some will kill to win.

This is a claustrophobic Christmas murder mystery that is just a wonderful read. There is so much that is hidden away within the pages, Alexandra Benedict has created some let’s say interesting characters but one in Lily that you will cheer for.

The Christmas Murder Game is just the perfect festive read, it is fun and one that you will enjoy if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie. But there is more Alexandra has dropped in a few little games for the reader to play while trying to solve this gripping murder mystery. Hidden in the pages at twelve book titles and at the end of the book there is a puzzle to solve that you will enjoy while you digest that extra slice of Christmas cake you wish you had said no to but pour that glass of wine and settle down to read a festive murder mystery.

400 Pages

 The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict is Published by Zaffre on 30th September and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org