The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to solving a puzzle, and that a message in secret code ran through all Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Iles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Iles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today?

Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Iles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I hadn’t read Janice Hallett’s previous book The Appeal so had no idea what I was in store for. What I got with this novel was a lot of memories of The Famous Five series, a reminder of the accusations against their author Enid Blyton and an absolutely brilliant and original storyline.

Steve is an ex con, full of regret for the way he lived his life but determined to try and make the best of his release. One of his missions is to try and solve the disappearance of a teacher who he had a lot of liking for. After finding a book on his way to school which Miss Isles confiscated and then later read to his class, she took them on a school trip from which the children returned home but she didn’t. Steve has no idea what happened and after tracking down his old classmates down they try and find the answers.

With plenty of intrigue and the occasional red herring about the hidden code there is also historical fact. I have seen Martin’s Bank in Liverpool, and read the plaque about the gold bullion but had never looked for further information. I learned pretty quickly that I would be useless at cracking codes or acrostics but I enjoyed the enthusiasm shown by all of the group at doing so. Even if I didn’t fully understand. 

As well as the investigation into Miss Isles disappearance and trying to crack the code there was the story of Steve’s life. The reasons why he ended up in prison, his devastating upbringing and his determination to do the right thing on his release. It was really his life story which I enjoyed the most.

It is written in an unusual way. Most of it is a series of diary excerpts, but these excerpts are transcripts of audio recordings rather than a written account . It did take me quite a while to understand some of it, for example, I was slightly baffled why there was a lot of talk about ‘missiles’, until I remembered that it was a phone, often hidden, doing the recordings and there was some ambiguity about what it heard and what was actually said. There were a number of times I had to reread lines but having to do so didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this novel, it made me appreciate it even more.

Flight Of The Shearwater by Alan Jones – Review.

About The Book

Flight of the Shearwater: Book 2 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy,a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

With Poland divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Republics, the increasingly confident Third Reich flexes its military muscles northwards into Denmark and Norway, while the rest of Europe watches anxiously over its shoulders.

General Erich Kästner, in his key role in the Abwehr, is fast becoming aware of the mass expulsion of Jews and other minority groups from Germany and from northern Poland, to the new ghettos of the Generalgouverment area of southern Poland, and has an inkling of what the National Socialists’ have in mind for Europe’s Jews.

As Holland and Belgium fall, and the British are routed at Dunkirk, barely escaping across the channel, the seemingly impregnable France collapses under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler’s rule.

The Nussbaums, thwarted in their attempts to escape to Denmark, desperately seek other routes out of Germany but, one by one, they are closed off, and they realise they have left it all too late…

My Review

Flight of the Shearwater is the second book in The Sturmtaucher trilogy and I would recommend that you read the books in order. These books are very long, but they need to be, this was a shameful period in history that was so harrowing with the politics, pain, cruelty and acceptance of all of it by many. Anything less would feel like the events were being glossed over.

Whilst there is continuing focus on Erich, Yosef and Miriam, this novel also concentrates on some of the younger members of both families. You get to see the horror and guilt that both Franz and Johann feel when they realise what they have become involved in as part of the German army and the turmoil faced by Ruth and Manny when they have to leave behind their parents and overcome danger hoping for safety. 

Sadly, it also had to focus on some of the characters who believed in Hitler and everything he stood for. Maria, Eva and the female members of the once friendly Bohm family all made me cringe as I read. I found it fascinating but I was also increasingly upset by the attitudes and the amount of venom displayed. Especially when I read how Maria had no remorse or compassion for her former friends. I found their attitudes had more of an impact on me than the Gestapo and their determination to find out what was happening with the Kästners and Nussbaums on their sea trip. 

The novel is extremely detailed, with historical facts and the complexity of the early years of the war. The author shows how everyday people were duped by propaganda and the insider bulletins about how the Jewish community were being cut off and what the plans for them were. I was aware of certain aspects but I also learned a lot. I had no idea about the amount of control Germany had over Northern Europe, that there was a Jewish community on the Isle of Man or where any of the prisoner of war camps were in the UK.

I am happy that the third book in the series is available to read. I plan on reading it as soon as possible, I need to know what happens  to all of the people who feature in this outstanding series.

The Dark by Emma Haughton – Review – First Monday Crime

Dead dying dafodil flower in moonlit graveyard.

About The Book

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose. 

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all. 

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I see a lot of fiction now that suggests a ‘locked room’ murder or a novel that is similar to those written by Agatha Christie. By this, I mean the murder could only have been committed by a member of a small group of people. In this novel that group consists of 12 people and it would have been impossible for that murder to have been committed by somebody else because of where it takes place. Antarctica.

I have to admit, Antarctica is a place I have never given much thought to. I wasn’t aware that it was dark most of the time and I had no idea there was a Southern Lights ( Aurora Australis). Whilst reading I quickly decided that it wasn’t  somewhere I would like to go and I was happy enough looking at the lights on google images. 

The novel is very much a slow burner. The first half of the book shows the mood and friendship in the group disintegrate as the darkness hours lengthen  and the realisation that they have no chance of leaving until the weather improves. Kate’s dependancy on drugs increased and she alienated many in the group  with her questions about her predecessor.

After the murder occurred I felt that the group dynamic improved slightly initially but it didn’t take long to deteriorate again when other events were revealed. I had some inkling who the murderer was before the end but what was more unique about this novel was trying to guess who the victim would be.

The Dark was an intense and claustrophobic read which I enjoyed immensely. 

Emma Haughton will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Sarah Hilary, Alexandra Benedict and Martin Walker. The moderator will be Jake Kerridge and you can see the event on Monday 6th December on First Monday’s Facebook page.

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee – Review.

About The Book

Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? 

Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this ‘unmissable’ (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to read all of the books in this series, I have only read the first, but this book was easily read as a standalone novel, and made me more determined to read the books that I haven’t had the time to read.

The novel is dual narrative with both Sam and Suren revealing the predicament they face. It is evident immediately to the reader the danger that Suren faces,in many ways before he does. His accusers are British, he is Indian and despite him being a police officer he is in danger of going to the gallows. Regardless of the fact that he is innocent. The more you read Suren’s account, you see how betrayed he feels by the system and by his colleagues who just assume he is guilty because of his religion.

With Sam, you see the determination to prove that Suren is innocent, the frustration at some of the decisions made and his increasing reliance on some brilliant female characters. 

Because I haven’t read all of this series it was a joy to see Sam without his opium addiction. I could see him as an officer who was coping without the need for the drug and the guilt at needing it. Part of his story is upsetting, his memories of his war experience, but I also got a lot of enjoyment out of his cynicism and frustration when things didn’t entirely go got plan. 

This novel shows how powerful a tool manipulation is. And how even though it takes place a 100 years ago it could just as easily happen today. There were times I felt chilled at the danger innocent people faced for being duped by those who had power and the means. 

But it also showed a fascinating country with some wonderful characters. There were so many who made an impression on me, many of whom were probably invisible to the ones who had authority or a better life. 

Love Lies Bleeding by Rebecca Bradley – Review.

About The Book

A murdered woman brings Detective Hannah Robbins into the world of women who love lifers.

Audrey King, a teacher of young children, did nothing but fall for Wendell Hayes. A man serving life for slaughtering his family. She’s found dead in her home with the murderous signature of the very man she visited, but there’s no way he could have killed Audrey from inside prison.

Hayes, the son who took a hammer to his parents, his pregnant sister and her husband, horrifies detective Hannah Robbins. The threats he made against her when she arrested him for those murders still haunt her. Yet she must confront him if she is to get to the bottom of this brutal crime.

But Hayes isn’t the only one haunting Hannah’s slowly fracturing mind. A previous case where she was the victim is destroying her. Can she find justice for Audrey before her world spirals out of control, or will she take the investigation down with her?

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received. I have read all of Rebecca Bradley’s books and her Hannah Robbins series is my favourite. I do recommend that you read the earlier books to understand the situation that Hannah is facing throughout this novel. 

The case that Hannah’s team is investigating is a brutal one and it was one that made me feel anxious and repulsed. I can’t understand why women would want any type of relationship with a convicted killer. Especially one like Wendell Hayes, who had no charisma at all. He seemed to have no remorse or genuine feelings, just quite happy to mock the detectives who were interviewing him. Especially Hannah who has arrested him years earlier.

But I felt that the investigation wasn’t the main part of the story, instead it was Hannah’s increasing dependence on the painkillers and her being unable to talk to anybody about what she was going through. I really wanted her to be able to talk to Aaron and with his character I can imagine that she unintentionally caused a lot of hurt. It was quite difficult to read at times and I did find it easier to read Aaron’s point of view.

I hope that this series will continue and we can see a positive outcome to her storyline.