The Hidden Palace by Dinah Jefferies – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

An island of secrets. A runaway. And a promise…

A rebellious daughter
1925. Among the ancient honey-coloured walls of the tiny island of Malta, strangers slip into the shadows and anyone can buy a new name. Rosalie Delacroix flees Paris for a dancer’s job in the bohemian clubs deep in its winding streets.

A sister with a secret
1944. Running from the brutality of war in France, Florence Baudin faces a new life. But her estranged mother makes a desperate request: to find her vanished sister, who went missing years before.

A rift over generations
Betrayals and secrets, lies and silence hang between the sisters. A faded last letter from Rosalie is Florence’s only clue, the war an immovable barrier – and time is running out…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I hadn’t realised when I started this book that it was the second part of a trilogy but I had no problem reading it as a standalone novel. There are references to earlier events but very few of them were relevant to the storyline.

Two separate timelines in three different countries. France in the 1920s, Britain in the 1940s and Malta covering both periods. It was the Maltese storyline that captivated me, I have visited both Valletta and Mdina and could identify many of the places mentioned. But it wasn’t just being familiar with the location it was Rosalie’s story. Her excitement at doing what she loved, the people she met and her guilt and regret at the way she left her family and homeland.

Florence was similar in many ways. Living in Devon, separated from her sisters and a difficult relationship with her mother, Rosalie’s sister. It did take me slightly longer to get to know her, maybe because of the novel I hadn’t read. But as she settled into her new life in Devon and decided to try and find Rosalie I enjoyed her storyline more.

This was a novel that showed the hardship experienced by many towards the latter end of WW2. The fear of bombing was one I had read before, the fear of running out of food wasn’t. The excitement when the war was over but being able to see how difficult it still was after with regards to travel and rebuilding lives. The entertainment offered, some of it innocent, some a little more dubious. It all felt real. 

This was the first book I had read by this author, I will definitely read more.

The Bleeding by Johann Gustawsson – translated by David Warriner – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.

1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.

Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the fourth book that I have read by this author and each time I have been left lost for words. Many authors use alternating  timelines throughout their novels but with differing levels of success.This novel worked perfectly. Three different timelines, two different countries but the three women who feature are all linked. When the husband of one of them, is murdered the link between them is slowly revealed. 

All three women were struggling to deal with the situation that they were in. In 1899 Lucienne wanted answers and turned to a medium, in 1949 Lina wanted revenge and befriended an elderly lady in a care home,and in 2002 Maxine wanted her loving daughter to lose her teenage anger, clinging to the memories of happy times. She threw herself into work, getting relief from her colleagues Jules and Gina.  Whilst all three captivated me it was Lina I wanted to read about most, she was the one who I had more sympathy for. 

But as I read more I realised I’d been duped. Nothing was as it seemed and I had no idea what would happen. It was a sinister, macabre, slightly confusing at times, book to read and I read it very quickly. I believe that it is the start of a new series, with the ending of this I have no idea what to expect. An absolutely brilliant novel. 

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.

Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.

Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .

But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Despite watching most of the televised productions of Vera this is the first book from that series I have read. And despite having a lot of appreciation for the series, in particular Brenda Blethyn, this is the first time that I really felt that I got to know the real Vera. I could see her insecurities, her regrets and her devotion to her team that she wasn’t always capable of showing. I could also see how that affected her team, in particular Holly who often felt unappreciated or ignored. 

You got to meet the small group of friends immediately, school friends who were still in contact 50 years after leaving school and who met every five years on Holy Island. They didn’t  appear to have much in common or, at times, even that much liking for one another. There was resentment about each other’s lives even though they wouldn’t admit it to it.  I felt that their only connection was the guilt over the death of one of their group years ago. Annie featured the most out of all of them and she was the only one who I really had any liking for. She had suffered the biggest loss but had managed to move on and accept the way her life had turned out. 

But it was Vera who captivated me. With this case, she had to dig through fifty years of friendship and rivalry to try and work out if the deaths were connected. These  weren’t people who had only known each other for a brief period of time and  they were now at the time in their lives when they were thinking about retirement or illness. There was little that they could fear from her, apart from awkward questions about the past.

In her personal life, I liked her memories of Hector, her loneliness, her pretence at showing an interest in her colleague’s private lives and her fearful but wry acceptance that she was approaching the end of her career. I have read books previously where the leading detective’s private life was revealed but this portrayal stood out for its honesty. Especially in the closing pages of the novel where is was very easy to see her feelings.

I read this book easily as a standalone novel, I want to know what happens next but I also want to catch up on the earlier books in the series. 

Whisper of The Seals by Roxanne Bouchard – translated by David Warriner – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

There’s only one thing more deadly than the storm…

Fisheries officer Simone Lord is transferred to Quebec’s remote Magdalen Islands for the winter, and at the last minute ordered to go aboard a trawler braving a winter storm for the traditional grey seal hunt, while all of the other boats shelter onshore.

Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès is on a cross-country boat trip down the St Lawrence River, accompanied by Nadine Lauzon, a forensic psychologist working on the case of a savagely beaten teenager with Moralès’ old team in Montreal. 

When it becomes clear that Simone is in grave danger aboard the trawler, the two cases converge, with startling, terrifying consequences for everyone involved…

The award-winning author of The Coral Bride returns with an atmospheric, race-against-the-clock thriller set on the icy seas in the midst of a brutal seal hunt, where nothing is as it seems and absolutely no one can be trusted. 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I had read the first book in this series but to my regret not the second. However, it didn’t take me long to catch up with Moralès and get to know and appreciate Simone Lord, the fisheries officer who he was hesitant to acknowledge his feelings for. Their relationship has made me determined to read the second book The Coral Bride. 

The storyline concerns both of them and switches back and forth between them throughout the entire novel. Much of Moralès storyline covered his angst about his divorce, his inability to admit his feelings for Simone, his brilliant friendship with Lefebvre and eventually his determination to rescue Simone from the fishing trawler.

Simone’s is much more intense. She isn’t a character I warmed to instantly, just like Moralès she was unable to admit how she felt, and it was only in the latter stages of the novel that she could. But I appreciated almost instantly her determination to stand up to the men she was on the trawler with. 

I found her to be brave in many ways, her job, the danger it brought and also her acceptance of the seal cull. After seeing various reviews of this part of the book I wasn’t relishing reading it but even though it was at times brutal it was also handled with sensitivity and showed that some of the men at least showed that they didn’t want the animals to suffer. There was a brief time that showed they cared more about the animals than the activists did, something I had never thought about before.  

There was nothing that would have got me onto the trawler, the group of men were only a small one but they were either terrifying or infuriating. I had no idea what any of them would do next and who out of all of them were the biggest threat to Simone.

This was a fascinating novel, descriptive, emotional and dangerous and one that I will definitely read again.

A Corruption Of Blood by Ambrose Parry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A Raven and Fisher Mystery: Book 3

Edinburgh, 1850. This city will bleed you dry.

Sarah Fisher is keeping a safe distance from her old flame Dr Will Raven. Having long worked at the side of Dr James Simpson, she has set her sights on learning to practise medicine herself. A notion everyone seems intent on dissuading her from.

Across town, Raven finds himself drawn into Edinburgh’s mire when a package containing human remains washes up on the shores of Leith, and an old adversary he has long detested contacts him, pleading for Raven’s help to escape the hangman.

Sarah and Raven’s lives seem indelibly woven together as they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.

My Review

I am thrilled to be opening the blog tour for this latest book in one of my favourite series. It is also one of the few where I have all three books signed by the authors.

One of the many reasons I enjoy historical fiction like this is because of the way the story is based on read life characters as well as fictional ones, the knowledge that many of the events would have happened and the opinions of many of the characters would have been common. Most of these opinions left me feeling outraged and saddened. I don’t think that I would have been able to stay quiet like Sarah did, and I had a lot of respect for her ability to do so, and her determination to try and prove her critics wrong. She did have her supporters though, from women like her, who couldn’t follow their dream.

Initially Sarah and Raven were investigating different cases, but they do have a link and eventually they ended up working together. Unfortunately, they found themselves in danger and they knew that someone was scared of them getting too close to the truth. What they did discover was heartbreaking. I know that there were many who were capable of acts like this, but can’t imagine what it would be like to know that you had been duped by somebody so cruel. I was completely wrong about all aspects of their investigations but had a lot of appreciation for the eventual outcome.

Whilst there is a lot of focus on uncovering the truth there is also a lot that shows the way life was at the times for many. The poverty, the horrifying decisions that many were forced to make and the attitudes of the wealthy towards those who were less fortunate. All of this combined with Sarah’s determination to be acknowledged is the reason I enjoy this series so much.

I was happy to read a few weeks ago that book four in this series will be published next year. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.