The Dressmaker Of Paris by Georgia Kaufmann – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

I need to tell you a story, ma chère. My story.

Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual certainty eludes her.

What brought her to this moment? As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de Janeiro; success and self-discovery in New York.

A life spent running, she sees now. But she will run no longer.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. My aim this year is to broaden my reading and this book is one of the first that I chose to read that is out of my comfort zone. And I am happy that I did. 

Rosa is am ambitious and  extremely successful businesswoman  but she also has a problematic personal life which started with devastating events that occurred when she was in her teens. She manages to escape with help  but a series of decisions affect her for many years. Regrets, guilt and loneliness are never far away, despite the very successful business, her first to marriage to Charles and her friendship with Graca giving her something else to live for. But what she really wants is unavailable and she finds it difficult to accept that somethings are beyond repair. 

It did take me a while to settle into this novel, I don’t follow fashion trends and designers, even though I did know the names mentioned. But Rosa’s character was one that captivated me and I really enjoyed the way the chapters started with the descriptions of everyday beauty regimes. 

Rosa has had a tough life despite her business success but her personal life changed in ways she didn’t expect when she moved to New York. As you would expect, with the type of life she had it wasn’t all easy but she somehow managed to analyse, accept and make the best out of a difficult situation. 

It is a wonderful account of a life that starts in a Italian village in WW2 and ends up in a penthouse in New York, many mistakes made but also dreams accomplished. My favourite part of it was the last quarter when Rosa was able to come to terms with the decisions she had made. 

As well as a great storyline with some fascinating characters I also felt it was a travelogue. I was able to see so many places through Rosa’s life story.

The Art Of Dying by Ambrose Parry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a whispering campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a signed copy of this book when it was released and jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour. I had no doubts that it would be just as good as the first book, The Way Of All Flesh. You could read this book without reading that but I would recommend that you do read them in order.

It starts in Berlin, but only for a short chapter, where Raven shows that he doesn’t make life easy for himself. He returns to Edinburgh to work with Dr Simpson again and is wary of how Sarah would be with him, but he is unprepared for what happened with her during his time away. Things aren’t quite as they first seem though, and he is soon aware that she is going to need friends. And they both need to be a support to Dr Simpson even though he doesn’t want them to be involved.

The book consists of three narrators, Raven, Sarah and the unnamed killer. All were brilliant, some of the chapters were very short and made this a very quick read for me. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen with all of them. Whilst enjoying reading about all of them it is Sarah who was my favourite. I loved her determination to be more than ‘just a housemaid’, her loyalty and her spirit. 

The historical aspect was perfect and even though I didn’t understand some of the medical terminology it made this book more fascinating. And I feel very relieved that methods have changed. As for the setting, Edinburgh is somewhere I have visited but I don’t know it well. I need to return and visit the areas mentioned, to try and visualise them as Raven and Sarah.

I’ve always enjoyed historical crime and this series of books is now one of my favourites, despite only being two so far. Book three is definitely one that I am looking forward to reading and hopefully adding to my signed collection.

The Darkness Within by Graeme Hampton – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

You can run… but death will always find you

A man is discovered on a leafy North London street, fighting for life after a brutal beating. DI Matthew Denning and his team are quickly called in to to track down the monster responsible. 

Except the victim is hiding secrets of his own. His name shows that he was reported missing two decades ago – but it’s clear that the missing person is not the same man lying broken in a hospital bed.

A visit to a squalid East London flat unearths a victim with his throat slit, his body left to decompose. A sad end to any life – but when it is identified as former DCI Frank Buckfield, star of the Met police, the case takes on a new significance.

Two seemingly unrelated cases – but as Denning, along with DS Molly Fisher, investigates further, they uncover links between the two victims that lead back to a ring of silence cloaking the blackest of crimes.

But as Denning and Fisher try to track down a killer with revenge on their mind, they find themselves pitted against a psychopath who will kill to keep their secrets hidden. Can they uncover the truth, before they end up the latest victims?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Darkness Within is the third book in the Denning and Fisher series but the first that I’ve read. I had no problem getting to know the characters or follow the storyline. Although I do intend to read the earlier books as soon as possible, I enjoyed this novel a lot.

There appears to be two separate investigations but there is a connection. And it isn’t just the one that has the two main characters getting into trouble simply for trying to do their jobs. But despite both being told to back off they aren’t willing to, and they carry on with their questioning. Thus upsetting  victims, criminals and superior officers.

The investigation is sadly believable, everybody will have heard about investigations that were dropped for reasons unexplained but where you’d suspect that money or power and control were involved. The author shows the damage that caused to the individuals concerned and the way that it destroyed their life. But he also shows how a willingness to listen could make a difference.

An unusual side to this novel was that lead characters personal lives were shown and that their partners also had a voice. All too often they feature but the reader never gets to know much about them. I appreciated this a lot and I hope to see it a lot more.

I’m looking forward to reading the earlier books and from reading the author notes at the end book four definitely sounds like one to look forward to. 

Death Of A Messenger by Robert B. McCaw – Review.

About The Book

On Hawaii Island, an anonymous 911 caller reports a body at Pohakuloa, the Army’s live-fire training area. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane, a cop with his own secret criminal past, finds a mutilated corpse–bearing all the hallmarks of ancient ritual sacrifice. 

He encounters a host of obstacles as he pursues the murderer–an incompetent local medical examiner, hostility from both haoles (Westerners) and sovereignty advocates, and a myriad of lies. Koa races to discover whether the victim stumbled upon a gang of high-tech archaeological thieves, or learned a secret so shocking it cost him his life and put others in mortal danger. 

Will Hilo’s most respected detective stop this sadistic fiend–or will the Pohakuloa killer strike again, with even deadlier consequences?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. My knowledge of Hawaii begins and ends with the remake of the TV series Hawaii 5-0. This book was a lot more detailed, more interesting and more entertaining than that series. As well as knowing little about Hawaii I have no knowledge of archaeology or astronomy, but it didn’t stop me enjoying this novel. 

Whilst I have no knowledge of archaeology I found this aspect of the novel fascinating, I’m not sure I would like to discover some of the finds, they were a little creepy and intimidating but the author did a wonderful job of showing how important they were to those who have an interest. I enjoyed reading about the history of Hawaii, the way of life and the often antagonistic attitude between Hawaii and the United States. It was something I had never considered, but it was believable

Koa, the lead detective in this novel was a character I warmed to straight away. Like many before him he had a skeleton in his closet, but he lived his life trying to make amends for what he did. I found him to be devoted and protective towards his partner, loyal to his friends and respectful of Hawaiian history and culture. 

There were plenty of red herrings, quite a few dubious characters who could have been the murderer and I liked trying to work out who it could be. I was incorrect but the ending worked perfectly. 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Review.

About The Book

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

My Review

Where The Crawdads Sing is described as a crime novel but I feel that the crime committed is only a small part of this novel. Instead it is tale of Kya’s relationship with nature as she goes from childhood into adulthood. And it shows she is also the victim of another type of crime. That of neglect and ignorance.

I struggle to understand why such a young child is left to fend for herself after all of her family abandon her. Her father is there for a little longer but doesn’t really do much to help. Instead she turns to her adoptive family Jumpin’ and Mabel who try their best to be there for her whilst also keeping their distance. It is her will and resolve to cope without her family that forms the basis for part one.

Initially I found it quite a slow book to read and at times I struggled to read it. Not because I didn’t like it, more that it was so different, very descriptive and at times I struggled with the local dialect. There were brief chapters that mentioned the investigation into the suspicious death but they didn’t really register. Instead I slowly became captivated by marsh life and Kya’s determination. Her friendship with Tate opened a new world to her and definitely made life a lot easier for her as she got older.

In part two the pace changes a lot and the investigation and subsequent trial takes over to some degree. You get to see more of the despicable behaviour of the more affluent and white townspeople. The attitude towards Kya and prejudice made me cringe. But there was also more evidence of those who had silently supported Kya in the background over the years.

This is a special novel, so different to everything else I have read and I expect it to be a long time before I read anything like it again. I’m sure the film will be just as wonderful.