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.

The Reacher Guy by Heather Martin -Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Jack Reacher is only the second of Jim Grant’s great fictional characters: the first is Lee Child himself. Heather Martin’s biography tells the story of all three.

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have two confessions to make. Firstly, I don’t tend to read non-fiction and this is the first autobiography I have read. Secondly, I have never read a book by Lee Child. But after seeing him appear at numerous festivals and listening to my husband’s enthuse about his novels I felt curious. I’m happy to say that this is definitely a type of book I would read again and I will also make a determined effort to start reading the Reacher books.

Most of this 500 page book concerns Jim (or Lee) before he became a hugely successful novelist. It is one that fascinated me, and I felt an array of conflicting emotions. There was the letter that is shown early on in the novel that he wrote for an online project ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ on the 100th anniversary for the declaration of war that reduced me to tears. It wasn’t the only occasion when reading this part of the book that I thought that Jim felt guilty to be from a generation that didn’t have to go to war. There were also occasions that made me smile. His determination to stand up to bullies, both in school and the workplace as well as his thoughts regarding many politicians in the UK and USA. And I definitely agreed with him with on the ‘dumbing down’ of the TV station he worked for. 24 hour TV was one of the worst decisions Granada TV ever made.

Jim is obviously an extremely loyal, honest and thoughtful man. He admits throughout feeling detached from his parents but remains close to some family and friends. The loyalty he showed towards his agent and publisher where many would move on at the first opportunity for more fame. And his loyalty towards his many readers. He must have felt pain and bafflement when he received backlash later in the series. He came across as a loner, as someone who has never read the books I thought that this was his only similarity with Reacher.

This isn’t a linear biography, Jim could be a schoolboy and an author years later in the same chapter but once I got used to it I thought it worked well. It’s a remarkable achievement showing the publishing process, the work that goes into promoting an author and his books but more importantly it shows the dedication in publishing a novel yearly  from all involved and the impact that had on Jim. I’m glad that he felt happy enough to retire without regrets.

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder – Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved though to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found – killed in a similar way. Matthew finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have never read a novel by Ann Cleeves before but I have watched her books dramatised for TV. It didn’t take me to long to understand why both are so successful, her writing and character building are wonderful.

With all the characters being new it didn’t take me long to get to know them nor did I feel that I had missed any major developments in their personal lives by not reading the first book. Instead I felt intrigued, Matthew Venn is unlike any character I have met before. His childhood  sounded extremely interesting and is one I want to know more about. Jen, I adored. Liverpudlian, strong and coping with life as a single parent despite her job. I was less keen on Russ, he sometimes came across as bitter and I didn’t care for his attitude towards his colleagues or his wife. 

The case was an interesting one, the small group of friends whose lives were changed by the murders of people they knew. I could visualise their lives clearly. The bereaved artistic young woman, the hippy charmer  and the hardworking couple who wanted more independence but also were reliant on family. And just on the edge were the family whose lives had changed through possible health service failure. I had a lot of appreciation for the way they had to appear in their jobs, masking their real grief, and they were all expert at hiding what they were going through. Their lives and the deeply unsettling events that contributed to their son’s death was the strongest part of the story for me. Possibly because I feel what affected them does happen.

This is only the second book in the series but I can see it being as successful as Vera and Shetland. I hope there will be more.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

‘What is wrong with you?’

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Girl On The Train was a book I enjoyed reading so I felt that I would like this book. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t  disappointed and in many ways I preferred it.

Told by multiple points of view it shows how a small group of people were affected by the murder of a young man, Daniel, on a canal boat. All knew him and nearly all of them could have been responsible for his murder. And of course all would have a good reason. His character is only there as the victim but they way he is portrayed through memories didn’t show him as a very nice person.

The five people, Laura, Carla, Theo, Miriam and Irene were all completely different. Some I liked, some I didn’t but the two whose narrative I enjoyed most were Laura’s and Irene’s. I loved their connection, Laura’s stubbornness and approach to her life despite her health issues and everything about  Irene was just marvellous. I had great admiration for her determination not to be disregarded because of her age. And reading about her love for her husband and the way she coped since his death was lovely to read. She knew that Angela, Daniel’s mother and Carla’s sister had problems but never judged and always tried to be a friend. Carla and Theo’s attitude towards her was shameful, they were the characters I liked less than the others. Miriam was a character who I wanted to understand more but I often felt that she was more distant. I felt I knew more about her as a teenager when her life changed dramatically rather than in modern day. It was evident that the trauma she suffered still affected her years later. 

The reason why Daniel was killed and who murdered him was a mystery to me until it was revealed. I had no idea at all who it could be. My thoughts  regarding the guilty person and their actions were different to my usual feelings though. This is more than a novel about a murder, it is novel which shows how grief and trauma affect a person’s actions and in this novel I found it impossible to judge them. 

The Woman In The Wood by M. K. Hill – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A reality TV star becomes a suspect in an Essex murder case in the sharp, funny and moving new thriller from M.K. Hill

Three years ago, Danny ‘Abs’ Cruikshank, star of reality show Laid in Essex!, was living the dream. But on the night of the party, everything changed.

It was supposed to be an intimate weekend gathering, just a few close friends in a remote cottage in Wales. But after a night of heavy drinking in the village pub, a local girl was reported missing – and never seen again. Abs and his friends had been the last to see her alive.

No-one was ever charged, but the controversy destroyed Abs’s career. And now one of his mates has been murdered…

DI Sasha Dawson and her team must race against the clock to find the killer before they strike again – but first she must discover what happened to Rhiannon Jenkins on the night she vanished. Will the truth set Abs free? Or bury him?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I don’t watch reality TV, so have never understood the fame and adoration that seems to be handed on a plate to its stars. But I did have a soft spot for Abs, one of the main characters in this very entertaining novel. After becoming a suspect in the disappearance of a young woman he was dropped from a very successful reality TV show. He aches to be back in the limelight. Skint, no other skills apart from his charm and totally deluded about his relationship with his onscreen co-star Kelsey. But he soon discovers that his dream of success and a future with Kelsey fades into insignificance when faced with danger.

Sasha is the police officer who is investigating the death of Abs friend. Unlike her colleagues,in particular Lolly, she is unaware of who Abs is and doesn’t let his fame affect her investigation. I liked her a lot and appreciated the insight into her personal life. There are hints of a tragedy in her past that I wanted to know more about  and I liked that there was nothing revealed that made the later reading of book one in the series unnecessary.

I found this novel to be very original. There is a lot of focus on the investigation which you would expect, but I liked Abs having such a prominent role. His way of coping with what was happening around him was quite refreshing. He felt fear, guilt and disappointment but he was still capable of turning on the charm.

Another two original aspects of this novel were the impact of not knowing what happened to a family member had on a relative’s judgement forcing them do something they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances and the way that the pressure on an overworked police department meant that often other cases suffered.

I did work out who was responsible for the crimes in this novel but I didn’t see everything. I will definitely be reading more by this author.