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

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. 

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Widely regarded as a modern classic, The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman’s life; that of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman born in Canada in 1905. Beautifully written and deeply compassionate, it follows Daisy’s life through marriage, widowhood, motherhood, and old age, as she charts her own path alongside that of an unsettled century. A subtle but affective portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life, this multi-award winning story deals with everyday issues of existence with an extraordinary vibrancy and irresistible flair.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this novel and it didn’t take me long to realise that I had never read anything like it before and it would be a long time before I would again. 

It starts in 1905 when Daisy is born and steadily covers all of her life and a short period after her death. She doesn’t have an overly exciting life, just a normal one but it was fascinating to see how she coped with love, loss and family life. She sees a lot of change during her long life. Both wars and Kennedy’s assassination are mentioned but only briefly. None had a huge impact on her and those she knows.

It’s not just her version of history you see. Her children, friends and brief associates also have their voice and I found that I learned more about Daisy from them rather than her. Some had more of an impact than others, in particular her mother in law who did make me smile initially but I also saw a venomous streak.

One of my favourite parts which didn’t really include her was when her father in law, Magnus, returned to his roots. It showed how just one of the many who crossed the seas yearned for their former life.

It’s often witty, often sad but what stands out is this is just a normal life. 

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Amelia is part of a group of people who have been invited to an event. None of them have any idea where they are going or what they will be doing. They also don’t know anything about any of their travel companions. Most of them have the public image that they want to glorify and they all have something that they want to try and keep hidden. The most exciting part of this novel for me was when and how their secret would be revealed. And all of their secrets made me think about each of them differently. Some with pity and some with revulsion. The rivalries and friendships made in the small group were perfect. I could really sense the tension between them, especially the women.

It’s an unusual novel that I struggle to assign to just one genre. There is a crime element, but also Sci- fi, tech, and suspense. The tech was just enough for me. It didn’t go over my head and was just about the right amount to make me wary. 

When I read a book by this author I know that it will always be a little different. No two books have been the same. What I didn’t expect was to find some thoroughly unlikeable characters or rediscovering my childhood with the references to The Famous Five. But you have no need to be concerned if you are not familiar with that series. This novel is completely original and I think it will be a long time before I read anything like it again.

Susi will be one of the authors who is taking part in December First Monday Crime. Alongside her will be Sam Carrington, Deborah Massey and A. K. Turner. Join in the fun at 7.30pm on Monday 7th December on Facebook.