Pushing up Daisies by M.C. Beaton


About the Book

Lord Bellington has enraged locals by saying he is going to sell off their allotments to make way for a new housing development. So when he turns up dead, poisoned by antifreeze, nobody mourns his passing.

On another fine summer’s day, Agatha visits Carsley’s allotments where everything looks peaceful and perfect: people of all ages digging in the soil and working hard to grow their own fruit and veg. Agatha feels almost tempted to take on a strip herself . . . but common sense soon prevails. She doesn’t really like getting her hands dirty.

She is introduced to three keen gardeners; Harry Perry, Bunty Daventry and Josephine Merriweather are lamenting the neglected condition of a patch that has become available. But as Harry starts to shovel through the weeds and grass his spade comes across something hard so he bends down and tries to move the object. And he starts to yell . . .

The body is that of Peta Currie, a newcomer to the village – but who would want to murder her? Blonde and beautiful, she’s every local male’s favourite. And then Lord Bellington’s son engages Agatha to do some digging of her own and very soon Agatha is thrown into a world of petty feuds, jealousies and disputes over land. It would seem that far from being tiny gardens of Eden, Carsley’s allotments are local battlefields where passions – and the body count – run high!

My Review

Pushing up Daisies is number 27 in the Agatha Raisin series and the first that I have read. It is a series that I knew nothing about apart from once being told that Agatha is like a Miss Marple who liked a drink and had plenty of boyfriends.
It is very much ‘cosy crime’. There were quite a few murders, all with different methods but no gory details, no forensics or evidence gathering. Most of the investigation involved Agatha shouting at everybody and the police shouting at Agatha.
With not knowing the series I did struggle slightly, not being familiar with the characters or their relationships. There appeared to be an ex-husband and an on/off boyfriend amongst Agatha’s employees.
A very much lighter novel to what I usually read but it is a series that I can dip in and out of in the future when I fancy something a little lighter.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Standstill by J. A.Marley – Guest post and Review


Today, it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog John Marley, author of Standstill that is published tomorrow. 

 Creativity…with an emphasis on the Tea

Since I started to tell people that I was writing my book, Standstill, one question I have been continually asked is “How do you even start to write a book?”
Good question. How do you write a book? For years I, like most people, didn’t have the first clue.
And now I do. What happens is you sit down and you write. Now I am not being glib or patronizing here, but this is the truth for me. I literally sat down and started to write. And before I knew it I was creating a crime thriller about a master thief, crooked coppers, a determined detective and a huge robbery that would shake London to the core.
That’s how I started to write a book.
There are whole industries dedicated to answering this question. Books, courses, techniques, disciplines and yes, now, there are even apps that you can download on your phone or tablet to help you write your book.
Every author, when asked, will give you a different answer. They can only ever tell you what worked for them. I am always intrigued and amazed by the myriad discussions at author events about technique, tips on how to create character, some writers even using Excel spreadsheets to track the machinations of their protagonists and their personal quirks and interactions.
I just had an idea and I started to splurge it out.
It was for me that straightforward. Now, I’m not claiming I wrote one draft and handed it in. God, no. By splurging, writing in an emergent manner, I created all sorts of cul de sacs for myself. But after several different versions, I got there. The book as you can now read and enjoy evolved through 5 distinct manuscripts but the basic plot, hook and main characters pretty much stayed the same.
But the most amazing part of the process for me was also the most inconvenient one. It was largely written in bursts between the hours of about 4am and 8am.
And there was a simple reason for this.
My characters would wake me up.
I’m not kidding. They would start rummaging around in my head just at that point that the rest of the world was snug as a bug in a rug in their deepest sleeps. Not for me…oh no. I had to be suddenly awake having had a lightning thought about how to pull off the robbery at the centre of the plot. I was being cajoled out of my bed by Danny Felix, my master thief, demanding that I further the plot, help him become a fully rounded character. It was no use just keeping a notepad by my bed, as I could never decipher my sleep addled handwriting the next day, plus my Mrs didn’t particularly like the light going on and me mumbling to myself in the wee small hours when it developed into an almost regular thing.
Ideas on how to get me out of plot problems or secondary characters who have key roles to play in how the story works would feel it was okay to waltz around behind my eyelids, tugging them open and leaving me restless and unable to nod back off until they had their wicked way and got themselves out of my head and onto my laptop screen.
And this is where the tea in creativity of my blog post title comes in. If it hadn’t been for the restorative powers of a mug of tea, Standstill might never have made it to being listed on Amazon here: here
So I’d be prodded awake at some ungodly hour and my habit was to pull on some jimjams, go downstairs, put the kettle on and make tea. After the first few sips I would then start to type. I am fairly sure that I will never make any money from my books because by the time I have paid for all the tea bags needed to fuel my creative endeavours, there will be no dosh left over! If only authors could get commercial sponsorship deals! PG Tips would be first on my hit list.
So there you have it. That is how I wrote my debut novel. It was a right royal pain in the ass…and I have to say I’m very proud of it all. Because I got there. I wrote a crime thriller.
I hope you will enjoy reading it. And may I suggest you do so with a nice cup of tea.
Standstill by J.A. Marley is published 15th September by Avocado Books, price £6.99 in paperback original. Pre-order Standstill in eBook now, for just £1.99.

About the Book

One man’s chaos is another man’s comfort zone…
When young, ambitious thief, Danny Felix, is dragged out of bed by a psychotic cop in an early morning raid, he could hardly imagine he was about to be plunged into the robbery of a lifetime.
Corruption and coercion follow the very bent Detective Inspector Harkness everywhere he goes and now he has Danny by the proverbial balls.
But even the deadliest criminals leave a trail, one that dedicated Flying Squad officer Christine Chance is getting closer to, while trying her best to be mother to a seriously ill daughter.
Can Danny escape Harkness with his life intact? Can he avoid detection by Chance?
And most importantly does he have what it takes to use the teeming streets of modern day London to pull off the theft of the 21st Century?
Danny thinks he can…but there will be bloodshed..

My Review

The first thing that stood out about Standstill was how refreshing it was. Danny Felix is a thief who is forced by a crooked police officer into carrying out a very large robbery. One that will bring London to a standstill. Harkness, the corrupt cop is a nasty piece of work. He is violent and a bully who won’t take no for an answer. Christine Chance is a member of the flying squad, her team have recently solved a series of cases and she is starting to get suspicious about their luck. She also has a seriously ill daughter.
I liked Danny, he constantly tried to show Harkness that he would do things his way and he was the boss but Harkness always seemed to be one step ahead and knew exactly how to show Danny how things really were. I struggled slightly with Christine, the part that involved her work I was fine with but I found the storyline concerning her daughter difficult to read.
The way that London was brought to a standstill was unexpected. It only covered a couple of chapters but it was a part of the novel that had a lingering effect on me.
A great debut novel, with some laughs, some shocks and a unique storyline.
With thanks to John Marley for the guest post and Sophie for the novel received for review.


The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah.


About the Book

The new Hercule Poirot novel – another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation.

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

My Review

I was a huge Hercule Poirot fan years ago and loved getting my hands on one that I hadn’t read from the library. However, when I had read them all countless times they were replaced by more modern crime novels. I was really interested though when I heard that Sophie Hannah was continuing the series. I was advised that the hardback edition was preferable to the e-book, mainly because of the cover. I’m glad that I did buy that version, its stunning.
Monsieur Poirot was just like I remembered him although if it was possible to meet characters from books I would have to apologize to him for forgetting that he was Belgian and not French. It was like the gap of thirty years plus didn’t exist. He was still the clever, vain, mildly insulting but loyal character that Agatha Christie created.
I thought his relationship with Edward Catchpool worked very well. Catchpool is the narrator throughout the novel and he took all the put downs from Poirot in his stride just appreciating him using his ‘little grey cells’ to help in the investigation. Parts of the novel were slightly intimidating, the way that Catchpool was made very unwelcome in the village where the victims lived was one of them.
The case itself was complicated. I never had a clue who the murderer was or how the murders were carried out. Neither did Catchpool but Poirot solved it as only he could. There are a couple of characters apart from the main two who I really liked and I hope that they will appear again in the future.
I was lucky enough to buy a signed edition of Closed Casket the next book in this series, I hope to read it soon. Recommended for all Hercule Poirot fans.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old.


About the Book

‘Another year and I still don’t like old people. Me? I am 83 years old.’

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn’t planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he had to visit his doctor more than he’d like. Technically speaking he is … elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs – not least his new endeavour the anarchic Old-But-Not Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in – the woman Hendrik has always longed for – he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what’s left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.

The indomitable Hendrik Groen – Holland’s unlikeliest hero – has become a cultural phenomenon in his native Netherlands and now he and his famously anonymous creator are conquering the globe. A major Dutch bestseller, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.

My Review

Likened to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Hendrik Groen’s diary is all about loyalty, friendship and tolerance. Or at times intolerance. Hendrik is bored with existence. He is fed up of listening to people discussing their various ailments in the ‘conversation room’, the communal area in the residential home he lives in.
His closest friend, Evert provides laughter, usually by upsetting the other people who they live with in the home. They decide to get together with a few other close friends and take it in turns to plan days out. They call themselves the Old but Not Dead Club. Much of their pleasure comes from the level of disgust and envy that this causes among the ones that are not invited and the director of the home.
At first I liked it a lot but I think I would have preferred it if I hadn’t read it all at once. It’s definitely a book that you can read a few pages at a time and it probably would have had more impact if I had done that. There was a lot of humour, but also sadness when friends became ill. But one of the main points throughout regarding the illness was that the people who coped better were the ones who were ill. Hendrik, the diarist, who despite the odd ailment was a very healthy 83 year old suffered more than most.
I loved his battles with the home director, his friendships with Evert and Eefje and the complete dedication that he showed in caring for them. Some of his frustration towards the Dutch politicians didn’t really mean anything to me but I appreciated his cynical swipe at a certain British ex Prime Minister.
Since reading it I have read various articles on the internet, the author is anonymous and there are rumours of a sequel. It is one that I would definitely read, and prepare myself for the inevitable. That age and deteriorating health would bring more sadness to the little group of friends.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley – Blog Tour Review


About the Book

‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?
Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?

My Review

I had only read one other book in the Detective Kubu series, Deadly Harvest and loved getting to know Kubu, his family and colleagues and enjoyed reading a book set somewhere different, Botswana. Both books could easily be read as stand-alone novels.
Kubu is shocked and heartbroken when he receives a telephone call telling him his father has been murdered. Being family he is forbidden to have any involvement in the case and despite his best efforts none of his friends in the police will tell him anything. He understands the logic behind this but finds it very difficult to accept.
To keep him at a distance he is told to investigate a series of deaths that occurred in a local town after a meeting to decide whether a development into a mine should be allowed to go ahead providing much needed employment. Information comes to light that suggest the cases are linked.
One of the reasons I enjoy this series is the way everything is described. The funeral was one of the most fascinating parts in the book. I felt like I was one of the many mourners, hearing and seeing the mourning and celebrating a life. I could just picture the amount of refreshments needed for a few thousand people. I also liked Kubu’s first experience of cold weather when he is sent to New York, and how different it was to Botswana.
The difference of opinion between the generations also felt believable. How the older, somewhat superstitious view from the elders was winning over the younger generation who were trying to survive without employment and an uncertain future.
A totally different type of crime novel compared to my usual choice of British, American or Nordic but it’s great. Still violent death, still modern day policing but in a different setting where beauty, poverty, culture, superstition and fear all make it seem slightly different.
With thanks to Karen Sullivan for the copy received.