The Wrecking Storm by Michael Ward – Review.

About The Book

1641. 

London. 

The poisonous dispute pushing King Charles and Parliament towards Civil War is reaching the point of no return. 

Law and order in the city are collapsing as Puritan radicals demand more concessions from the King. Bishops and lords are attacked in the streets as the Apprentice Boys run amok. Criminal gangs use the disorder to mask their activities while the people of London lock their doors and pray for deliverance. 

No one is immune from the contagion. Two Jesuit priests are discovered in hiding and brutally executed – and soon the family of spice merchant Thomas Tallant is drawn into the spiral of violence. Tallant’s home is ransacked, his warehouse raided and his sister seized by kidnappers. 

Thomas struggles to discover who is responsible, aided by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, a devotee of science, maths and tobacco in equal measure. Together they enter a murky world of court politics, street violence, secret codes and poisoned letters, and confront a vicious gang leader who will stop at nothing to satisfy his greed. 

Can Elizabeth use her skills to unpick the mass of contradictory evidence before the Tallants are ruined – both as a business and a family? 

And as the fight for London between King and Parliament hurtles to its dramatic conclusion, can the Tallants survive the personal and political maelstrom?

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received. I always enjoy historical fiction, especially when I read something that sends me looking for more information. The Wrecking Storm did just that, as did it’s prequel Rags of Time. This period in history is one that I know little about.

We join Thomas Tallant, his family and close friend Elizabeth again. The Tallant spice business is flourishing but this makes them unpopular with their business rivals who resent the family’s Dutch connections. This resentment brings danger to all of them who feel the threat from an enemy  they can’t identify.

London’s population is growing but there is a lack of housing and many people have no way of earning a living. There are an increasing number of gangs and this combined with the ongoing resentments between king and government make it an extremely dangerous place to live. The main threat comes from the Apprentice Boys who were gaining in power. It was this thread that was the strongest for me, their power and way of recruitment was very convincing.

As the danger levels increased it was Elizabeth who devised the best plan to keep the Tallant’s and their business safe. I was smiling as I read, visualising clearly the confusion and mayhem it caused. But there was also a feeling of sadness when it was revealed who was behind the threat and the consequences of the assault on the family.

Fictional characters combined with those from real life, this was a very interesting and entertaining novel. I hope there is more to come.

The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I’ve always enjoyed reading about the witch trials that took place in the 1600’s but had never known that any occurred in Scotland. I couldn’t wait to read this novel and find out more.

It is told from three different members of the same family. A mother, who is trying to run away from illness and a relationship that has turned sour and two of her three children, Sapphire and Luna. Unusually it is also told from two different periods in time, 1998 and 2021 with the addition of excerpts from a grimoire. These excerpts quickly became one of my favourite parts of the novel, I found them absolutely fascinating. I felt I was there, seeing the terror of the women on trial, the devastation of their children and the manic fury of the those who had decided the women’s fate.

Superstition forms a huge part of this novel, many locals believed every word that had been passed down over the years. Some of these were probably descendants of those who were killed or the ones who passed the verdict many years earlier. All of this, combined with totally different opinions from visitors to the area contributed to me having know idea of which way the novel would go.

I read many novels where the story is told by different narrators. This is one of my favourites, nearly every time it switched I needed to know what happened next. I found this an amazing novel and I will definitely be reading more books by this author.

The Dare by Lesley Kara – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

As a child, it was just a game. As an adult, it was a living nightmare.

‘This time it’s different. She’s gone too far now. 
She really has.’

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death. 

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find long-buried memories suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Dare is a dual time frame novel that is full of intrigue and twists. I have read a few reviews where the reader guessed at what was occurring but I can honestly say I never had a clue!

In her teens Lizzie suffered the trauma of her friend being killed whilst on their walk. As well with coping with her loss she has to deal with accusations from her Alice’s sister and school ‘friends’ that she hadn’t had a seizure as she claimed and was really responsible for Alice’s death.

Years later and in a steady relationship she has come to terms with Alice’s death and is making plans for the future. But she is dismayed when an unwelcome face from her past brings a lot of doubts and concern and she understandably feels ill at ease. Is this unwelcome friend genuine or are they a threat?

Most of this novel takes place in the present time and it was this part of the novel that I preferred. Older Lizzie has learned to live with her illness and is making plans for her future, younger Lizzie was very unhappy and struggling. Even before Alice’s death she never seemed to have the confidence to relax and make friends. 

I enjoyed this novel for its intrigue but also for its insights into how it feels to have epilepsy. Alice’s daily struggle felt like a real one, adapting to the changes in her life and feeling strong enough to make career and family plans. And of course how she felt stable enough to cope with the past coming back to haunt her. 

The Dare is a great novel that I read very quickly. 

Lesley Kara will be one of the panelists on First Monday Crime, she will be appearing alongside Inga Vesper, Mara Timon and Tariq Ashkanani. The moderator will be Jonathan Whitelaw. You can watch it via the FM Facebook page at 7.30pm on Monday 4th October.

The Second Woman by Louise Mey – Review.

About The Book

Missing persons don’t always stay that way

Sandrine is unhappy in her body, her house and her life.

But none of that matters when she meets her man. He makes room for her, a place in his home, with his son.

He cares about where she is, who she is speaking to. He loves her, intensely. Everything would be perfect, if only the first woman, the one from before, would just stay away…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Second Woman is one of the most intense books I have read for a long time and it also has one of the most unreliable narrators. The narrator, Sandrine, has problems with confidence and her body image. Her childhood sounded difficult and obviously had an impact on her ability to interact with colleagues and potential friends. But when she meets a man and his son, Mathias, after an appeal to find his missing wife her life changes. And in many ways not in a good way. 

Throughout this novel her man remains nameless. He isn’t the only one, there are a handful of others and I feel this was because the author ( and character) felt that giving them a name gave them an identity they didn’t deserve. Her man was the main one, I think the others weren’t named because of their refusal or ignorance of her predicament. 

At first things appeared fairly calm in their relationship. Sandrine knows that his wife’s disappearance and presumed death has had an impact on his and Mathias’s life and she is slowly getting closer to the young boy and has an amicable relationship with his maternal grandparents. But her relationship with the man has started to get volatile. He resents the constant presence of the police, especially the female officer, and when the first wife reappears you started to see his true personality. 

Initially there were times I struggled to believe Sandrine. I wondered if she really was in a relationship with the man, whether the first wife had reappeared and it even crossed my mind that she was the first wife. But the more I read I started to see what was really happening. I started to see her as others saw her, not her own thoughts regarding her image and her popularity. I saw that there were some people who cared about her safety and wanted to help her. I was also relieved to see that once she realised this it gave her more confidence in her own strengths.

 As the danger levels increased I felt more horrified. Not just at the abuse she and others around her received but also at the lack of understanding over her situation. I hate to think that this is a true reflection of attitude but sadly I expect it is. 

I read this book as part of a read along within a group and really enjoyed seeing other readers thoughts. 

Seconds To Die by Rebecca Bradley – Review.

About The Book

A killer who sends drawings of the murders he will commit.
A detective who will do anything to stop him.

Detective Claudia Nunn has never seen anything so beautiful — or so horrifying.

The intricate drawing is sent to her at work. It shows a man, naked on a bed. His arms are bound, his face contorted in agony, a huge blade stuck deep in his back.

Gory? Certainly. Something to worry about? Not likely. Police get sent weird stuff all the time.

Until Claudia is called to a crime scene that exactly recreates the drawing.

When another sketch arrives, Claudia thinks she might have a serial killer on her hands, who thinks he’s an artist.

Claudia’s in a race against time to stop anyone else dying — and the next victim could be her.

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received. Seconds to Die is the second book in the series to feature Claudia, Dom and the rest of the team who are tasked with solving more complex cases. They have a lot to prove and this case, featuring the murderer that the press have named The Artist is a difficult one. 

This is a investigation that affects Claudia deeply. She is desperate to get a result but also grieving the murder of her friend and stepmother Ruth. That investigation is the topic of the previous book and I do recommend that you read that first. The investigation and certain aspects of it feature heavily in this novel. 

The murders committed are vividly described, I didn’t need to see the drawings to get an image in my head of how the victims looked. The way they differed made this case difficult to solve, not helped by the very short time frame they were given with little idea of where the crime took place. And with pressure from above and an increasingly fractious relationship with Dom it was no surprise that Claudia was struggling. 

One of the reasons I like Rebecca’s books so much is that they show the police as not always coping well with their situation. You see the exhaustion, forgetting to eat and frustration of having to deal with the media. I had never thought that giving a murderer a title would cause anger before.  

I have to admit that I wondered if this book would be similar to others that have been published recently concerning art and murder but it isn’t. This is a completely original novel and one which I enjoyed a lot.